Regarding the Nazi “SS” symbol on Nick’s chest, the Nazi “SS” symbol isn’t something I made up. And the scene you read isn’t some fictional fabrication.
Back in 1998, I had a buddy who became a Scout Sniper two years after I got to know him really well. We had served together for twenty-four months together and gone on one deployment together, which believe me, two years in the military with someone is like half a lifetime with someone in civilian life.
My buddy had left 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, so that he could go to sniper school.
One day, a bunch of my friends was circled around him following his completion of Scout Sniper training and I walked up to see what was causing the commotion. Turns out, he had a Nazi “SS” symbol burned into his chest, exactly like Nick Woods in the book. (Same location, same terrifying font.)
My friend told me it had been burned into his chest with a coat hanger just a couple of days earlier.
When I said, “Man, do you know what that symbol is?” he answered me with pretty much the exact dialogue that you find in the book. (In short, that it was not about the Nazi connotation but about the strength, quality, and pride portrayed by the German Army in WW II.)
My friend also said that all Scout Snipers got one burned into their chest. (At least at that time.)
It’s my belief that the “SS” symbol is still used, as this news story comes from 2012. “US Marines in fresh controversy over sniper team photo with Nazi SS flag.”
I wanted to explain about the “SS” symbol because it’s not like I had some wild-haired fancy idea to put a very controversial thing into the book.