So, former 3/75 Ranger and author Nick Irving just nailed a major television deal. Release the OPSEC hounds! Surely there is tomfoolery afoot! Any veteran of a special operations unit that has done work in the limelight can verify that “stepping out of the shadows” is one of the hardest things you will do. Whether it is writing a book or becoming involved in the entertainment industry, you not only open yourself up to the public at large to rip you apart, but also your fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
How much heat you take largely depends on how you go about your business. For example, we have all seen what happens when you blatantly disregard non-disclosure agreements. But even if you do everything “right,” you will still catch a little shrapnel. You will be asked, “Whatever happened to the silent professional?” or, “Since when do (insert any SOF unit but NSW) write books/make movies?” You will, at times, seriously contemplate whether what you are doing is worth it all. As someone who has written two books, have a third nearly done, and writes for four different online publications regularly, I can say I have felt that heat and sympathize with guys like Nick Irving, Leo Jenkins, Jack Murphy, and a host of others who have had it much worse than me.
But the question begs to be asked: Are we supposed to be “quiet” professionals, or “silent” professionals?
First, let’s lay down some context. Writing books or making movies is not a post 9/11-generation issue. Earnest Hemingway, a World War One veteran, became world renowned as a journalist and author. A plethora of World War Two veterans wrote books and made movies (Audie Murphy anyone?), and it continued from there. If you served in the past two decades, chances are you probably have read one of the many Vietnam memoirs that have been published, and one of those books may have even influenced you to join in the first place. With that being said, just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean its right. Right?