Writing is a unique pursuit — few other things can span the distance between a trade and an art form while still falling under the same all-encompassing moniker. A “writer” might tell a story, educate a child, or offer the public an insight into problems real or imagined.

Here at SOFREP, we tend to do a specific kind of writing. We’re here to inform, to analyze, and to opine. We offer our audience a glimpse into our own perspectives, where many of us find a common ground. I think the allure of SOFREP isn’t that we’re writer’s in the artistic sense — it’s that, in all the ways that count, we’re just like our readers. Our kind of journalism is blue collar writing: pragmatic, based, and funneled through our experiences both in and out of uniform.

But as Luke Ryan demonstrates in his short story, “The Eighth,” some of us have a lot more in the tank than our sincere pragmatism. Some of us are storytellers in the artistic sense — seeking insight through imagination and bridging the divide between writing as a trade, and writing as an art form.

But if I’m honest, that “blue collar” truth I’ve come to Luke’s writing for on SOFREP remains, interwoven through his fiction — and that makes it all the better.

At its heart, “The Eighth” is a story about a son that lost his father to war, and about the human desire for retribution. Set in England and Ireland’s distant and troubled past, Luke relates a story about bloodshed, humanity, and that troubling revelation so many continue to have to this very day … when the romance of violence perceived gives way to the reality of violence experienced. Those who have seen death up close have trouble dressing it up with the pomp and circumstance we allot it in most fiction, and Luke is no exception.

As a special operations veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Luke Ryan has been that young man on a faraway battlefield, struggling to come to grips with the violence he realized he was capable of, and maybe even struggled to accept his apparent willingness to enact it. True war fighters, in my opinion, don’t fight for hate – hate can evaporate when you’re exhausted. Luke, like so many of the heroes I’ve been fortunate enough to meet through my work, fought because, somewhere deep down inside, it’s what he’s made for — and that reality is apparent in his fiction.

“The Eighth” opens with a son losing his father, a man he saw as a warrior-hero, but before it closes, that son finds his way into the same violence that defined his father’s greatness, only to realize that the romance of war all comes from the stories … not the battle. The battle, as Luke expertly relays, doesn’t permit time for lofty ideals like honor or revenge — there’s only savagery and survival, where good and evil men are equal in action, and distinctions can only be made after the fact, by those alive enough for retrospect.

This short story will run you a buck and might take you fifteen minutes to read, but the insight it offers into the warrior within us, spanning generations and geography, make it a must read. Luke Ryan makes you feel like you’re in the fight, sword in hand and maybe that’s because he remembers a similar day of his own.