This one hits too close to home…

Hey guys,

I wanted to share a message from a veteran that I came across the other day on Twitter. To me, no one has better described what most of us deal with after we depart service.

I know I didn’t see a ton of action, but I saw enough, and I didn’t kill anyone, but I nearly did, and all of that changed me. And yet, after I exited active duty following four years of service in the infantry — only to later voluntarily rejoin the Reserves after 9/11, where I expected to be called up — I’d often feel guilty because I didn’t think I should be feeling the way I did.

And I for damn sure wouldn’t let anyone tell me it was PTSD. No, not at all. Not me. I didn’t have it. I was certain of that, and I wasn’t going to hear anything differently about the subject.

But my friends and family would tell you I was different. Way different.

And I couldn’t really understand it at the time. The hyper vigilance. The terrible nightmares. The irrational fear, even while back in the safety of the States.

Anyway, I hope the message I read the other day means as much to you and it did me. And if it does, please share it with others.

The following message is written by Jason Kander, a veteran of Afghanistan.

Jason Kander: “I’ve had something on my mind lately, and I want to share it. If you’ve ever been part of a group of people that went through something difficult together, don’t lose touch with each other. You may not realize how crucial those relationships are until it’s too late. A story:

“In Afghanistan, I was an Army Lieutenant in military intelligence. My main responsibility was to provide intelligence reports on Afghan officials suspected of corruption, narco-trafficking, and espionage.

“In layman’s terms: Figuring out which good guys were actually bad guys or working for the bad guys. This meant operating “outside the wire” about 4 days/week, in an unarmored, midsize SUV. Usually just me and my interpreter. Sometimes I wore street clothes instead of a uniform.

“We drove around and met with people whose allegiances we could never know for sure. Usually armed only with a pistol, I was almost always outgunned and outnumbered in these meetings, and that can be frightening to say the least.

“I sometimes got to work as part of a team alongside a couple other guys – let’s call them Mike and Jake – who did jobs very similar to mine. To my knowledge, Mike and Jake were the only two guys at my camp doing the type of job I was doing. Meeting with potential bad guys, etc.

“I’m certain there were others, because I’d sometimes see other guys in street clothes in the chow hall, but Mike and Jake were the only ones I got to know personally who I felt were out there experiencing Afghanistan in the unique way I was experiencing it.

“Mike was big, tall, and soft-spoken. He had a realistic respect for the dangers we confronted. Jake was the most enthusiastic about the work. Unlike Mike and myself, Jake always dressed like an Afghan, and he grew the best beard among us.

“It’s funny the things I remember, like Mike getting irritated when Jake would use his turn signal, because no one in Kabul ever did, or the day toward the end of my deployment when a clean-shaven officer in uniform greeted me warmly and it took me a beat to recognize Jake.

“Mike had a real sense for how insane this all was. One time, at a USO show, he turned to me and said, “An hour ago I was at the site of a suicide bombing and now I’m at a Darryl Worley concert. War is weird, man.”

“I was the youngest and greenest, and I really looked up to Mike and Jake. I never really thought about the fact that we were the only three people I knew who were experiencing Afghanistan in this odd way.

“When I came home and started having nightmares, hyper-vigilance, and other symptoms, I refused to allow for the possibility that it was post-traumatic stress, because I felt as though my deployment didn’t warrant it. I’d not been blown up or shot at and I hadn’t had to kill.

“Over there, I’d been in meetings where I feared I’d be kidnapped or killed. Sometimes tension ran high enough that I mentally prepared myself to take a life out of self-defense. Thankfully, I never had to shoot my way out of a meeting, but I had certainly come close.

“That said, I spent ten years enduring symptoms of post-traumatic stress and telling myself I had no right to them, because I was just some jerk who went to meetings, unlike the “real soldiers” who’d been in firefights.

“It never occurred to me to reach out to Jake and Mike to see how they were doing. Now, I look back and wonder if they were going through the same things and — just like me — denying themselves help because they didn’t see their combat experience as worthy.

“Were they racked with nightmares about being taken? Unable to turn their back to the door for long periods? Unable to be present in the moment with their family? Convinced they “hadn’t done enough” to warrant such problems?

“If the three of us had stayed in touch, would I have gotten help sooner? Would they? Since coming home, both Mike and Jake got into serious accidents. Both were one-vehicle accidents. Given what I know now, I doubt either accident was “accidental.” Mike survived. Jake did not.

“My point is this: If you’ve been through something traumatic, stay in touch with the other people who were there with you. For your sake and for theirs. I’m going to reach out to Mike and I hope you’ll stay in touch with your people. As we say in the Army, check your buddy.”

Again, please consider checking with those you served with. Or with those you know who served, if you never served.

And don’t forget to share the article if you think it’ll help.

Semper Fidelis,

Stan R. Mitchell

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I write exciting, fast-paced thrillers. Both military action and mystery whodunnits. Ten books penned. 70,000+ sold. I also try to only write about positive things on my blog, so please consider subscribing. And obviously, if you’re looking for a quick, fun read, then click the link to check out my books. #USMC #SemperFidelis

Hill 406 gets a new foreword

Hey guys!

Hope everyone is doing well!

I’m writing because I wanted to share the new foreword that I recently wrote for Hill 406.

The book has been doing well — thankfully! — but I’d been wrestling with a foreword for the book for some time. (It originally published without one, because I didn’t’ want to hold up publication any longer while waiting on it.)

But it was one of those situations where I was too close to it, and there was so much to say, and so little space to say it. Plus, most readers — including myself!! — are like, “Just let me get to the story!” when they’re reading most forewords.

So, with all those thoughts in mind, I finally came up with something that I think works. And as I said, I finally completed it last night, so here it is:

Author’s Note

This book is dedicated to all of those who have served. Especially those who did their hard time in Afghanistan. To date, nearly 800,000 have served there. Of that number, nearly 30,000 have served more than five tours there. 

Also to date, almost 2,500 have died, and 20,000 have been wounded; many losing limbs or worse.

Finally, over 100,000 have reported having PTSD problems. 

A few things about this book…

I’ve obviously written a work of fiction about the Marine Corps and the war in Afghanistan. It’s (hopefully) both enjoyable and fast moving, and also real and harsh, like coarse sandpaper rubbed across your skin. 

It should be a lot of fun; a fast read. But it should also seem deeper and more real than a lot of those light military fiction books, where the good guys kick ass and go home unscarred.

With that being said, a few quick details about the book.

Camp Leatherneck is real.

The stats on deaths and the state of danger in Helmand Province are real. The terrain in that province is real. The tactics and weapons are real. 

On the other hand, the towns of “Alim Nuaz” and “Gorahumbira” are completely made up. Also, there is no Hill 406. All characters are made up. And all Marine Corps units are made up. I felt I needed to use these fictional elements because I wanted the freedom to have a little flexibility with the story. 

And with all of this out of the way, I sincerely hope you enjoy the story. Oh, and if you do, please spread the word.

 Semper Fidelis,

Stan R. Mitchell

SGT, USMC

A/1/8,1995-99

Hopefully, that foreword helps capture what I felt needed to be said about the book. For those who’ve already read it, and reviewed it, THANK YOU!!

And if you haven’t taken a look at it yet, please consider giving it a try. You can read the short book description and even a long sample on Amazon at this link: Hill 406. (Or click the book cover at right.)

Semper Fidelis,

Stan R. Mitchell

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I write exciting, fast-paced thrillers. Both military action and mystery whodunnits. Ten books penned. 70,000+ sold. I try to only write about positive things. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read, then click the link to check out my books. #USMC

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Pensacola shooting victim saved countless lives

I came across an incredible story today in USA Today and simply had to share it.

During the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, an unbelievable story of courage has emerged.

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, recent
graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

One of the sailors there — shot five times — left the safety of cover to tell the first response team where the shooter was located, which indirectly saved many lives.

But what’s even more shocking is that this sailor, Joshua Kaleb Watson, was only 23, and was a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Watson, who was the officer on deck at the time of the shooting, was shot at least five times, but he still somehow decided to exit cover and flag down first responders, giving an accurate description of the shooter and pointing out the man’s location.

Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, said that his son “died serving his country.”

His father also said that his son had dreamed of becoming a Navy pilot and had only reported to Pensacola for flight training the week of Veterans Day.

Somehow, for me at least, this makes the story all the more tragic. That Watson had pursued his dream to fly and had that dream cut short because of circumstances beyond his control.

But at the same time, it also makes the story all the more impressive. I’m pretty sure a lot of young officers might have thought, “That’s not my job. And I’ve already been shot five times. I’m going to stay in here and try to just stay alive.”

But Watson didn’t. He left cover, he showed incredible bravery, and he ultimately sacrificed his life in the service of others.

I know the men and women of our military REGULARLY show incredible bravery and courage, and it would be impossible for me to document them all. But let’s never take these kinds of sacrifice for granted in our increasingly selfish, self-centered world.

Please keep the family of Watson in your thoughts, and let’s never forget his sacrifice. Try to tell someone else about the actions that he took. Either today, or even months or years from now, if you’re talking to some young kid or future grandchild. Such courage and sacrifice by service members like Watson should be properly honored.

Semper Fidelis,

Stan R. Mitchell

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Stan R. Mitchell, a prior infantry Marine, is the author of ten, fast-paced novels. He’s sold more than 70,000 books and his favorite authors are Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. If you’re looking for an independent artist to support, look no further. You’ll love Mitchell’s books. Click the link below to check out his books.