I wrote this book for my teammates who are no longer here, and I couldn’t think of a better day to give everyone a preview. I just received cover approval from my editor Brent Howard, and wanted to share with the SOFREP community first.
The book is now available for pre-order at B&N and Amazon. Buying the book now helps me (and other authors) tremendously, it shows interest in the book and book buyers across the country will stock it at more locations which makes the story more available. So I appreciate your support in pre-ordering here, and sharing my teammates’ stories in “Among Heroes.” Save your proof of pre-order because I plan on raffling off some items (RESCO watch?) for anyone who orders the book before May. Let me know what you think, and enjoy an excerpt from my conclusion of Among Heroes.
Thank you, and thank you to the families of my fallen teammates for making this book possible. Without your support these stories would go untold.
“One day my grandson said to me, grandpa were you a hero in the war? And I said to him no I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.” – From the book and mini-series Band of Brothers
This book is dedicated to the families of these brave men: Mike Bearden, Dave Scott, Matt Axelson, John Zinn, Chris Campbell, Heath Robinson, Jon “JT” Tumilson and Glen Doherty. See you on the other side, gents. It was an honor to serve Among Heroes.
A U.S. Navy SEAL’s True Story of Friendship, Heroism, and the Ultimate Sacrifice
Note: This manuscript was submitted to DOD for a full review.
One Saturday morning in early February 2013, I arrived at a gymnasium in Orange County to spend the day with some high school kids and their coaches. We were at a tournament, hosted by Nike, for the top-ranked high school basketball teams in the nation. A few former SEAL teammates and I had been invited to participate as part of a nonprofit initiative with my Red Circle Foundation and a twelve-year-old Virginia boy named Will Thomas.
When he heard the news about Extortion 17 being shot down back in 2011, Will was upset about it. He wanted to find a way to commemorate these guys and help their families, but had no idea how or even where to start. He decided he would build his project on something he loved and knew how to do: shoot baskets. Why not ask people to donate money for every basket he sank in these fallen heroes’ honor? His father pledged a penny a basket, just to kick things off. Word spread. Within days he’d sunk twenty thousand baskets and raised fifty thousand dollars. Will decided to keep the effort going, and by early 2013 he had brought his total close to a hundred thousands dollars. When Will and his dad invited me and the Red Circle Foundation to come out to the high school tournament and give some teamwork talks to the coaches and players there, I was more than happy to say yes.
The teams paired off and started playing their games. One by one, my two friends and I started giving talks to different groups as they cycled through the room that had been set aside for the purpose. It was a long day, and a gratifying one. These kids were very talented players. Many of them had full-ride scholarships to good colleges; a few were likely on their way to the NBA. And these weren’t just top players; they were amazing kids: well behaved, sharp, respectful. When we got to the Q&A sessions they didn’t ask the kinds of questions you expect from kids—“Was it hard to become a SEAL?” “What’s it like to be a sniper?” “Did you ever kill anyone?” “What was the longest shot you ever took?”—and instead asked thoughtful questions about how they could become better players, how to foster stronger teamwork, and what were the most important elements to becoming excellent performers. It was impressive. These were some great coaches, and they weren’t just coaching ball; they were teaching these teenagers how to become outstanding young men. For my two friends and me, it was a satisfying thing to see.
At the end of the day, after we’d given our last talk, Tony, the representative from Nike, came over to talk with me. “Hey, Brandon,” he said, “there’s one team we sponsored that didn’t get a chance to hear from you yet because their game is running late. You guys are supposed to be on your way home already. I don’t want to impose. But they’re a great group, and their coach would really appreciate the chance for them to hear from you guys. Is there any way you’d be able to come over to their locker room and talk to them for a few minutes?”
“Of course,” I said.
I walked with Tony to the gym where this group was playing and watched the end of the game, then waited while the team filed off into their locker room. I headed over there and stood outside the door for a moment. I was just about to open it and walk in when my phone buzzed. It was a text message from Melanie Luttrell, Marcus’s wife:
“Please call Marcus ASAP”
A few seconds later I got a second text, this one from a SEAL buddy in Texas.
“Chris Kyle has been shot to death in Texas.”
My eyes closed and I felt myself slump against the wall.
Not again. Not another one. Not Chris.
I gradually became aware of the muffled chorus of teenage voices, shouting and laughing and talking on the other side of the wall that was now holding me up. Young men in postgame locker-room mode, exuberant, excited, their lives ahead of them. Waiting for me to come in and give them some inspiring words to end the day. Nobody else knew yet what had happened, not even my two SEAL buddies. How could I possibly face these kids? What could I tell them?
Someone else has got to do this, I thought. Not me.
I took a deep breath and checked myself as I listened to the hum and buzz of the budding teen basketball stars on the other side of the wall. Tried to process what I’d just heard. I didn’t know the details. All I knew was that Chris and a friend had both been found shot dead at a rifle range in Texas. The news hadn’t hit the media yet, and nobody else in that locker room had any idea what had happened. They were all counting on me to go in there and give those young men an inspiring talk. So what now? What would Glen or any of my other fallen brothers want me to do?
I took another breath, opened the door, and walked into the locker room.
I don’t remember exactly what I said. I know I talked about teamwork and sacrifice, and the fact that no matter who you are or how good you are at what you do, you can’t accomplish anything truly worthwhile on your own. That any great achievement is always at its core a debt you owe to your teammates who hold you up and support you through the good times and bad.
And I talked about winning.
“We have a saying in the SEALs: ‘It pays to be a winner.’ I know you guys are all serious about being winners and being part of a winning team. So I’m not going to blow smoke about what that really means. Because winning is hard, and it takes more courage than most people know. Winning isn’t about being lucky, or fortune smiling on you from above, or being graced with special talents. Winning is something you decide on, something that comes from the inside.
“You may have heard it said that winning is about refusing to accept defeat. Not true. That’s just denial.
“You can’t avoid failing. You’re going to fail. The question is, How will you deal with failure? Because what you do next will make the difference between ultimate failure or success in the long term. Sometimes losing is what helps motivate you to win.
“The truth is, winners are the ones who understand loss, who understand adversity and hard work and don’t run from any of it. One individual can affect the whole team with how he chooses to deal with a tough break. Winners play full-out and refuse to give in, no matter what. Loss hurts, and it’s part of the game. Accept it, embrace it, use it as your teacher. ‘I will never quit,’ the Navy SEAL creed says. ‘I persevere and thrive on adversity. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time.’”
At least that’s what I think I said. My fellow SEAL teammate Mark Donald was there and spoke some great words of his own. Tony told me afterward it was the best talk we gave all day. I was just glad I made it through.
If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to help support this book, please consider pre-ordering off the Barnes & Noble website. It makes an incredible difference for the Among Heroes project.
Thank you sincerely for all your support.