Monthly Archives: January 2014

A war memoir that I can actually recommend

All right, crew, today I’m going to get a little wild and crazy and go outside my typical parameters.

That’s right, as you can tell by the image below, I’m going to be reviewing a book — something that for a lot of reasons I don’t like doing, so, no, please don’t, aspiring authors, email me asking to look at yours.

I practically dread even publishing this because I already get too many requests and I’m so dang nice that I have a hard time saying “no.” (I’m the guy who can’t answer the doorbell or I’m going to be buying some friggin’ item that I most certainly don’t need. But they’re working so hard, I tell myself…)

Anyway, with great trepidation I agreed to at least peek at the book “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.” (Okay, aspiring authors, I do sometimes glance at books I’m asked to review, but since Jan. 2012, I’ve written about exactly zero of them if memory serves me correctly. This is the first, so hold off on emailing me.)

I hesitantly agreed to look at the above book and told the author in all seriousness that I really am the pickiest reader ever, and I seriously only get through about half of the books I start. (Believe me, it’s a curse I wish I could break… Seriously… And it’s so bad, sometimes I’ll go in a bookstore or library, browse two hours, and buy nothing. Like somehow I instinctively fear that whatever I start I won’t finish.)

But with all that said, I took said peek and literally devoured the book.

Frankly, I avoid most war memoirs. Most read slow and go into page after page about the author’s life — as if we care; we’re only here for the action! And I figured if I can barely get through some Navy Seal or Marine Sniper memoir, why in the world would I even attempt to read about a Marine’s time in logistics?

But Captain Jeffrey Clement writes one of the best war memoirs I’ve ever read in “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.”

First of all, the book will really challenge the thinking of a lot of infantry Marines. (Maybe Navy Seals, too?) The amount of danger these Marines faced is unbelievable. (And after an infantry unit fails to fight their way into Sangin, guess what Marines actually enter first? Yep, Lt. Clement’s Marines of CLB-6. [In fairness, it was partly due to their increased experience in road ops, but it’s still a reality that an infantry unit tried to fight their way in, was rebuffed, and the “logistical” Marines fought their way in first. And it’s a feat that can’t be knocked down or easily rebuffed.]

But Clement doesn’t try to make it sound like the logistics guys have it worse. He acknowledges that grunts have it worse from a suck perspective. Multiple times. (And he talks openly about the guilt he feels when he is able to get cleaned up while the grunts are out there in the mud and muck — something I had never considered from the flip side.)

But the Marines of Clement’s unit were seen as slow and easy targets, and the Taliban tangled with them all the time. (After all, who wants to tangle with some dirty, pissed off grunts looking to shoot something? Much more fun to shoot at the guys rolling 3 mph down the unimproved “road.” And seriously, my fellow trigger pullers, who wants to be in a truck pulling about 5,000 pounds of fuel alongside a couple of hillsides while bullets bounce off your trailer and IEDs explode to your front? That’s something I’d probably rather avoid doing.)

The book definitely opened my eyes to the logistical challenges faced in warfare period, but especially in Afghanistan. And it definitely doesn’t get bogged down in his personal life, like so many non-fiction memoirs seem to do.

In fact, one of the best things about the book is it takes you back to when you were serving. The hurry up and wait. The stupid regulations and games you have to play when you’re in a safe area and some stupid Gunny is complaining about your chewing gum or putting your hands in your pockets.

And just like when you served, there are stories of shocking bravery and leadership by Officers, SNCOs, and NCOs. But on the other hand, Clement doesn’t hold back either — he shares stories of unfathomable incompetence by that same group of leaders, as well.

And he pulls all this together into a tight book that moves fast and takes you back to your own time, when you experienced these very same things… It’s really a moving, inspiring work, that’s enjoyable as hell, as well. 

Definitely one to buy. Here’s the link again: “The Lieutenant Don’t Know: One Marine’s Story of Warfare and Combat Logistics in Afghanistan.”

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

12 Comments

Filed under Marine Corps, National security

Winter is coming, but you don’t have to despair

My friends and supporters know that I’m so dang close to getting Mexican Heat down. (For those who don’t know, Mexican Heat is the sequel to Sold Out.)

And for probably two or three weeks now, I’ve been telling my beta readers and close writing friends that it would be done… “Probably in a day or two.” Or, “Just two more scenes, most likely.”

And I’ve said that multiple times. “Probably in a day or two.” “Just two more scenes, most likely.”

And then tonight I cranked out another 2,700 words. (For me, that’s a marathon, by the way. I’m a plodder, not a sprinter — with a good night being 800-ish to a 1,000 words and an average one being 500 to 700.)

So, frustrated tonight, I decided to re-read my writing tips file that I’ve collected through the past ten-plus years, and do some online research. Maybe ole’ Stan was losing his touch, right?

I mean, the 2,700 words I wrote tonight felt solid. Like, really good. But, I just crossed 90,000 words and I still haven’t gotten to those two final scenes that I know must happen. (Most novels should aim for 60-80,000 words.)

Then, I read this by George R. R. Martin, a legend obviously, and felt instantly comforted.

  • “Sometimes these damn characters have a mind of their own and refuse to do what I want them to do”. — George R R Martin

So, the book will be done soon. Probably in a day or two. Just two more scenes, most likely.

And because you guys rock and are such great supporters of mine, here’s some serious motivation I found while trolling the internet, trying to confirm my writer skills weren’t dead.

From, again, George R R Martin. (And if you had to click that link above to figure out who he was, you should seriously punch yourself right in the face.)

Remember: Winter is coming

Valar morghulis — All men must die. I think an awareness of our own mortality is something that concerns most art and literature. But I don’t think that necessarily translates to a pessimistic worldview. Just like in the real world, my characters are only here for a short time; the important thing is that love, passion, empathy, laughter; even laughing in the face of death, is still possible. There is darkness in the world but we don’t have to give way to despair. One of the best themes in The Lord of the Rings is that despair is the ultimate crime. Winter is coming, but you can light the torches and drink the wine and gather around the fire and continue to fight the good fight.

Thanks for being such great supporters, guys. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it and how thankful I feel to be where I am, chasing my dream with every ounce of energy and courage that I can muster, trying to make it to that next mile marker just up the hill a ways.

And I promise: The book will be good. It will have multiple hand-to-hand scenes. And Nick Woods and his crew (yeah, I know, a new development for the typical sniper/loner) will bag some cartel dudes… (Okay, more like a lot of cartel dudes… But would you expect anything less from me?)

Oh, and it will be done soon. Probably in a day or two. Just two more scenes, most likely.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

10 Comments

Filed under Eastern philosophy, Motivation, Stories about my life, Writing tips

Let’s not forget the Coast Guard…

Recently, I crossed paths with CWO3 William H. RaVell III, a retired Chief Warrant Officer from the United States Coast.

Besides being a great guy to get to know, RaVell has been pointing out to me several instances of where the Coast Guard has been overlooked in tributes to military service. (And since he’s pointed this out to me, I now see instances quite regularly, as well.)

Marines holding a sign thanking the Coast Guard during WWII. (Photo credit: Brandmeister)

RaVell said it best when he told me: “Those publicly honoring the military should be made aware that the Coast Guard, while under the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, is indeed an armed military service. The Coast Guard is not only tasked with highly demanding and dangerous peace time responsibility, they have fought in every war since its founding in 1790 through today. Our sister services acknowledge what the Coast Guard has accomplished and contributed to the defense of our nation at home and abroad. Perhaps if enough people point out the failure to include the U. S. Coast Guard in tributes such as this, the general public will learn the Coast Guard is also a fighting armed force and should be acknowledged as such.”

In the post, Marine Corps ranked worst service branch to join, and I love itHarry T. Imoto Sr. CWO3, USCG, Ret. weighed in with the story of a Medal of Honor winner from the Battle of Guadalcanal, as well as his service along some dangerous rivers in Vietnam.

“Do the USMC Old Timers remember the name Douglas Albert Munro, Signalman First Class, USCG? He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of Guadalcanal on 27 September 1942. Yes, the USCG is one of the Armed Forces. I am proud to have served in the USCG from 1952 to 1976. Oh! I did time in Vietnam also and was in enough action to be awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon along with 8 other medals and ribbons for service I Vietnam. I’m not showing off my awards, but just trying to emphasize that we Coasties are also a fighting service.”

As one 8404 Navy Corpsman commented in the link above, he worked with the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army, and he had the highest respect for the Coast Guard.

“The only thing I can really say about the Coasties is what I saw of them on their 100-foot patrol boats in the Gulf, they were pretty damn squared away. If I were to have been planning a fast boat attack I’d have steered clear of the Coast Guard boats, they were really jumpy and didn’t hesitate a millisecond when it came to putting warning shots across another boats bow.”

So, when you think of those serving our country in harm’s way, let’s not forget the Coast Guard. They’re interdicting drugs, preventing infiltration by terrorists, and rescuing lots of people trapped in storms and the worst conditions imaginable. And this is just some of their more high-profile missions.

Enjoy the video below and remember to respect our fellow service members in the Coast Guard.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

4 Comments

Filed under National security

Persistence. Life’s most important lesson?

This blogpost really moved me. It’s about a writer chasing their author dream, and I know that may not apply to many of my readers, but the story really lays out one of life’s most important lessons.

And when you read about her love of writing and how it gets tested by companies going bankrupt, opportunities falling through, and her career field losing that shine it started with, I’m confident it will make you think of whatever career you’re in. (And probably struggling with.) And while the easy thing to do is just switch careers or start with something else, this article helps remind you that:

A) You’re probably closing to succeeding than you think.

B) All career fields start out fun until you realize their dirty secrets and shortcomings.

Just one great quote from the article:

It’s persisting in the game after you know what it’s really all about. After the shine wears off. It’s persisting after all your hopes and aspirations bang head first into reality.

Below is the full article. It’s a tad long, but well worth the read! On persistence, and the long con of being a successful writer(Warning, there is some profanity.)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

12 Comments

Filed under Eastern philosophy, Writing tips

This looks more fun than a roller coaster…

This video made my day.

One question though… Would you ride it?

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

7 Comments

Filed under Random posts