Life has not always been so easygoing for me. I have my fair share of ups, downs, and challenges. In this excerpt from my book, The Red Circle: My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen, let me share with you the challenges that changed my family’s life. This is the beginning of the making of a Navy SEAL.

The Change

Then, about the time I turned six, our lives changed.

My father had always been into sailing. My parents had a dream of sailing around the world, and business was now doing so well they decided it was time to take a few years off and hit the water, just the four of us, to make that dream into a reality. We owned a beautiful 60-foot Sparkman & Stephens ketch, which he kept moored on the California coast; why not let that become our new home as we circled the globe?

Just as we were getting ready to leave, my dad decided to do one more big project. My mother objected, but my dad prevailed: One last gig, he said, and that would really set us up. A group of investors was going to put up the money, so he took out a large construction loan and built the place. Then the recession of 1980 hit—and the project collapsed. My dad was left with the bill and no investors. He tried negotiating with the bank and kept trying for two years. They came and took our house. My dad declared bankruptcy, and we lost everything.
Being so young at the time, I didn’t quite grasp what was happening, and nobody ever sat me down and said, “Brandon, we’re ruined, wiped out.” Even so, there was an ominous undercurrent that I couldn’t have missed.

I remember going into the bank one day with my dad to close our accounts—the same bank he’d been wrestling with for the past year—because we were about to move away from Kimberley. One of these was a savings account he had opened for me some two years earlier.
This had been quite a big deal for both of us when we opened it. “Look, Brandon,” I remember him telling me, “this is your first savings account. We’re opening it in
your name—this is going to be your money.” He showed me the passbook and the first line, where he had entered the initial deposit. “Now you get to watch it grow.” I was so excited about it, and I could tell he was, too.

Now, when we asked where it stood, my dad was informed it had a zero balance.

“What?!” he practically shouted at the teller. He was livid. “How is that possible?!”

I don’t remember how much he had put in there in the first place, but it wasn’t much, and whatever it was had been wiped out by monthly fees without my dad realizing it. He had wanted to teach me a life lesson about how you can invest and save—but the only lesson I learned that day was about how you can get wiped out without even realizing it.

The Move To Blaine

When I was seven, we left Canada for good, moving to a little town called Blaine, jammed right up into the northwest corner of Washington state, where we began the painful process of starting over.

As huge a change as this financial collapse was for my parents, it crept up on Rhiannon and me only gradually. It was only now when we picked up and moved to Washington, that I began to realize that something pretty serious was going on here. No more Jack the Bear gigs or late-night hockey practices, and no more skiing the North Star face with my friend Justin. All of a sudden, I was yanked out of the life I loved, and we were living in a strange place in a smaller house. Now, when my mom took me shopping for new school clothes, we were hitting the thrift shops instead of going to the big department stores. It wasn’t just that we were living in a different place. Our lives were different. I never saw Justin again.

My dad was different, too. He became moodier, angrier, and tougher on me. The whole thing had devastated him. Today, thirty years later, he is still getting over it, and I can’t say I blame him. As a seven-year-old, though, I didn’t understand any of that. All I knew was that I would go with him everywhere before, and now I didn’t see him all that much. I always loved my dad, but I think it was during these years that a wedge started quietly building between us, one that would have life-changing consequences in later years.

It was in Blaine that I started getting into trouble, getting into fights with other kids, and raising hell. Fortunately, my parents already had a formula for dealing with that, and they got me as involved in athletics as they could. Soon I was doing sports again year-round.

What I remember most about Blaine are baseball and wrestling. I was crazy about wrestling, and it was also one of the few places where I would still regularly connect with my dad. My mom was at all the baseball games, but it was always my dad cheering our team at the wrestling matches. I could tell he was proud of me. I especially loved going on trips with our wrestling team to compete in matches. In fourth grade, I placed second in the regionals and made it to the state championships.

Another thing that made life in Blaine better was that making new friends, even in tough circumstances, has always come pretty easy to me. I had three especially good buddies there, Chris Bysh, Gaytor Rasmussen, and Scott Dodd; we all stay in touch to this day. Chris became my best friend, and as with Justin back in Vancouver, we got into lots of athletics together—especially baseball.

On our Little League team, Chris played catcher, and I was the pitcher. We did pretty well and made All-Stars. We even got invited to attend a special baseball camp hosted by the Orioles. I was so excited about going. This was going to be a blast!

Cover Reveal and Q&A with Brandon Webb on his newest book, ‘The Killing School’

Read Next: Cover Reveal and Q&A with Brandon Webb on his newest book, ‘The Killing School’

But it never happened. Instead, my parents shipped Rhiannon and me off to Toronto to stay with relatives for that whole summer. I was absolutely furious at my dad. What was wrong with him? I could not believe he was going to take away this incredible opportunity and ruin my summer, and for no good reason whatsoever!

He actually had a very good reason; it was just one he couldn’t tell us. At the time, my parent’s marriage was on rocky ground. I don’t know the details of what happened, but I’m sure that whatever it was, the financial stress didn’t help. They were making a serious effort to reconcile and put things back on an even keel and thought they would have a better shot at it if they didn’t have to tiptoe around Rhiannon and me for a few months.

But of course, I didn’t know any of this until many years later, and it wasn’t easy to find anyplace in me that could forgive him for taking this prize away from me.

While we were living in Blaine, my father started picking up the pieces of his career. He found a job as foreman for a large construction company and was soon building houses again. He and my mom had never given up on their dream of sailing around the world, and by the time I entered fifth grade, we were able to purchase a 50-foot ketch.

Life’s A Boat

Soon we were leaving Blaine behind and moving 100 miles or so south to Seattle, where we began living on our new boat, which we christened Agio, Italian for “ease.” There were times when life on the Agio lived up to its name—and there would be times when it most definitely did not.

My parents were excited about the move and hopeful about the future. Me, I was pissed. This was the sixth time we had moved since I was a baby, and I was starting to seriously resent it. It seemed like as soon as I made some new friends and started settling into a social group, we’d be up and moving yet one more time, and I’d have to go through the whole process all over again. Even though I was pretty good at easing my way into new situations and making new friends, this was getting old. I was tired of being uprooted, tired of being picked on as the new kid. It probably served to build character and develop in both Rhiannon and me the ability to adapt to new circumstances, but at the time, it just felt hard. I was jealous of the kids who got to stay in one town and have friends they’d known since preschool. We never had that.

No matter how much we moved around and how difficult things sometimes got, one thing Rhiannon and I always did have was each other. Like any typical brother and sister, we’d fight sometimes and get on each other’s nerves, but we were close all through these years. Sometimes we’d talk together about how we felt about it all. Typically, I would be angry, and she would cry.

After a few years in Seattle, we pulled up stakes and moved yet again, sailing down the coast to head for Ventura, California. The trip was not an easy one. To me, it felt like the weather pretty accurately reflected my mood: 100 miles off the coast of Oregon, we hit the tail end of a hurricane. For more than twenty-four hours, we struggled with the full force of nature, beating into the gale-force winds, until my father finally dropped our sails and put out a sea anchor. We hove to and waited for the storm to pass.

My sister and I on the bow of “Agio,” our family sailboat.

The next few dozen hours left a deep impression. I remember my mother gripping Rhiannon and me close to her, life jackets donned and survival raft at the ready, wondering which would turn out to have more staying power—us or the hurricane. In the end, after nearly two days, the storm must have decided we were not worth it: It finally released its grip and moved on. We found we had been pushed almost 200 miles in the wrong direction.

When we finally pulled into Coos Bay, Oregon, a crowd of locals had gathered on the docks to hear about the family that had been out there on the ocean’s angry face and survived the storm. Everyone loves a good sea story.

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