What’s with the Nazi “SS” symbol on Nick’s chest? And why is he so unlikable?

Sold Out” earned a great review the other day. See it here: http://twbarton.com/reviews.html.

And while we’re on the subject of “Sold Out,”I thought I’d address two recent complaints I’ve recently received about the book.

The first and most serious one concerned the Nazi “SS” symbol on Nick’s chest.

Well, the Nazi “SS” symbol isn’t something I made up. I had a buddy who I served with in 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, who later became a Scout Sniper two years after I met him and got to know him really well. (This was roughly in 1997.) One day, a bunch of my friends were 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.)

Furthermore, I know of several Marine Scout Snipers who have read this book and given me feedback who have served since 1999 (when I got out) and none of them have mentioned the Nazi “SS” symbol scene, so I’m assuming it still happens. (Otherwise, I’m certain these men who provided me feedback would have said, “Bro, no one burns a Nazi SS symbol into their chest anymore…”)

Finally, as further proof, remember this news story from only 2012?

“Marine scout snipers used Nazi SS logo:” http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20120209/NEWS/202090327/Marine-scout-snipers-used-Nazi-SS-logo

I say all this just to provide some context and show where I’m coming from as the author. It’s not like I had some wild-haired fancy idea to put a very controversial thing into the book.

The burned “SS” symbol on Nick’s chest is like every other thing in the book. It’s part of either something I experienced while I served, learned from two of my best friends who went through Scout Sniper school, or researched and documented in the dozens of sniper books I’ve read over the past 15 years.

I’d also like to address why Nick is so unlikable.

Obviously, Nick really is jacked up in the head… He’s about as messed up as they come. Not only does he have PTSD, but he has higher than normal levels of paranoia because he was literally sold out by the government that he trusted.

And given that he’s killed a hundred plus guys in a series of missions he can’t talk about, he’s not your typical vet. He’s a dangerous animal that you don’t want to set off.

No, he’s not like some likable Hollywood character. Instead, he’s precisely like many vets you’ll meet in the real world.

And if I’m totally honest, I’d have to admit this: I wrote much of “Sold Out” right after my exit from the Marine Corps, when I was dealing with some serious paranoia and had spent the better part of four years fixated on the multitude of ways to kill people.

I was in a dark place, and I suppose the book reveals it.

Just as Nick Woods gets into a major fight with his wife over his paranoid thoughts and preparations for an attack on his home, I, too, dealt with that. Nick got caught with a gun under his sink and a secret journal full of suspected people following him.

I got into a major fight with my wife because I was unscrewing the electrical outlets in my home, convinced after a weird interaction at the mall — which I thought was with a CIA agent– that everything I said in the home was being listened to by the federal government. (This was in 1999 or 2000, way before the days of the NSA being in the news for listening and reading to every single thing that we say. Hi, NSA.)

My point is that the Nick Woods in “Sold Out” is far more real than you probably ever want to imagine.

We prefer images of soldiers and Marines returning home with a smile, hugging wives and kids and wrapped in the flag. We don’t want to think about those same men taking different routes to work, being startled in their sleep and seizing their wives neck, or nearly taking a dude out in the mall who approaches them twice with some weird comments.

But the veterans who have actually been through a lot are like that. They have wire triggers, they’re alert, and you don’t want to startle them. (Just ask one of my friends.)

And while many of you will say, “But, Stan, you’re so nice. This is all hard to believe,” you need to know that the Stan you see now is not the Stan you would have seen right after I got out. (And the Stan you see now is still half-crazy, lol!)

Love you guys. Thanks for all the support. Both of books continue to sell better and better and I owe each and every one of you greatly. (And, yes, “Mexican Heat” is still in final edits and get closer and closer to being published every day!)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please consider subscribing for email alerts of new posts.


 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 finding 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.

Some amazing analysis on what should happen to Sgt Bergdahl

The story “We Lost Soldiers in the Hunt for Bergdahl, a Guy Who Walked Off in the Dead of Night” over on the The Daily Beast has gone absolutely viral, as have several similar stories from soldiers who served with him. (Having read many of them, I recommend the one above if you’re just reading one.)

Ignoring the argument of whether it was wise or not to trade for him — that’s too political and heated for me to touch! — the fact is we now have Sgt Bergdahl and we’re going to have to do something with him.

In the military community, the talk has been almost non-stop on what should happen. Frankly, most of it has been over-blown and too passionate, in my opinion.

But an officer I served with made some of the most insanely good commentary I’ve seen yet.

In asking him about Bergdahl, I said, “The evidence against Bergdahl seems pretty stacked, but he deserves the chance to explain what happened. (And I’m glad I don’t have to make the call — five years in captivity would make what should be a pretty simple decision much more difficult.)”

My friend and officer, who I’m choosing not to name, replied with this amazing analysis:

“Seems like a strange cat to begin with. His pops’ whole growing a beard thing suggests the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But if he deserted, he needs to be held accountable, at least nominally (even if only NJP). Tougher call about all of the VA benefits he would rate as a POW. If he aided and abetted though, he needs to get hammered. That will be a tough case to prove though from an evidentiary standpoint because everyone breaks sooner or later. Tough to draw that line.”

What do the members of Mitchell’s Militia think? Do you agree?

And what do you all think should happen? (If commenting, please keep your comments as tactful and respectful as possible!)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please consider subscribing for email alerts of new posts.


 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 finding 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.

Rest in Peace, Tyler Cone

A fellow Marine shared this on facebook: Rest in Peace, Tyler Cone.

It’s a story that’s unfortunately far too common. A returning vet taking their own life.

If you get a moment, read the short story of his life and try to think of a vet you know. Honestly, there’s almost no one who goes in who doesn’t come back changed and a little messed up.

Or, at least it’s almost always this way with the Marines that I know.

And partly it’s because things are so clear while you’re serving. You’re doing worthwhile work, you have the closest friends you’ll probably ever have, and things are simple. (Not always fun or easy, but certainly simple.)

And when you get out, the freedom and sudden lack of responsibility is a cold, hard slap in the face. You go from being a hero and doing something worthwhile to stocking shelves and dealing with some seriously immature and spoiled people, who just don’t get it. And you’re getting all these questions about what’s it like to serve and it’s just impossible to answer to someone who’s never been there.

Ack. It’s too complicated to get into without writing a novel. Please read about Tyler Cone (link, once again) and then share some love in the world.

To a vet, if you can, but since we’re impossible to approach or help sometimes, help someone who’s just hurting.

That stranger at the gas station who hasn’t taken a bath or shaven.

That weird friend on facebook who’s posting odd and scary posts on their timeline.

Hell, go give ten or twenty dollars to that woman or man who pulls up to a gas pump in a beat-up car and a look of desperation and fear in their eyes. 

Spread some love and good karma, friends. This world can be a cold, hard place.

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.