Want To Win Signed Copies Of My Books?

With a mere 148 shopping days until Christmas, I thought I’d help everybody out. Here’s a chance to win a signed copy of each of my books delivered straight to your door for free. These books make great gifts and I’ll happily sign them to whomever you designate–should you win the drawing on August 31st, 2016.IMG_2471

To enter the drawing, post a picture of “After Action” and/or “Continuing Actions“, taken in some interesting location,IMG_2454 with the hashtag #DanSheehanAuthor on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’ll retweet and share all (appropriate) entries. Inappropriate ones will be enjoyed in private.

Each new picture counts as an entry, feel free to enter as many times as you’d like. After the drawing on August 31st, I’ll contact the two lucky winners to arrange delivery.

Have fun!

Twitter: @dansheehan_dan
Instagram: dansheehanauthor
Facebook: Dan Sheehan, Author

#dansheehanauthor, #freebooks, #giftsforveterans

Sharing The Pride

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I grew up in the Marine Corps when homosexual slurs were commonplace. This was during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and anyone who challenged the use of such a slur automatically invited suspicion of being gay–a label that ended careers and worse.

I used to wonder about “Gay Pride.” What did it mean? Was it just an opportunity “Those People” took to dance proudly down the street sporting only a yellow codpiece (thanks Christopher Moore) and oversize plastic sunglasses? I suspected there was more to it than that–my knuckles have only recently stopped dragging behind me–but didn’t feel inclined to investigate further.

Until now.

It’s not the horrific acts in Orlando that changed my thoughts. It is not the fact that 49 people were murdered in a place where they felt happy, relaxed, and comfortable being themselves. As horrible as that is, the news is awash with events like that from around the world. My eyes and ears have become accustomed to skipping over them quickly–to do otherwise invites despair.

No, it wasn’t the murders that did it. It was the reaction of the community.

Instead of answering evil with rage and anger they responded with love: Love and support for each other, for the victims, and for the first responders and emergency workers who rushed toward the sounds of battle to help. They lined the streets to donate their blood, they located family members of the fallen and offered support, and they honored the vibrance and joy that the victims brought into their lives.

Where some politicians and loudmouths stepped all over themselves to jam political agendas into the gaping wounds of the fallen, those closest to the carnage abstained, choosing instead to ease, not inflame, tensions and fear. This is a hard-won skill brought about by years and years of experience–the gay community is no stranger to unsolicited violence against it–and it serves as a lesson for all of us.

My son came home from school yesterday and blasted his sister with a new “put-down” he’d learned: “Oh, man, your drawing is so GAY!” His timing couldn’t have been better–I’d been listening to relatives of the victims speaking eloquently through their tears on the radio–and I stopped in my tracks.

“What did you say?”

“You know, her drawing, it’s just so GAY.”

He wasn’t doing it to be anything other than an 8 year old harassing his younger sister. But it showed me that I’d outsourced a critical parenting step to his 2nd Grade classmates instead of handling it myself.

What followed was a conversation that rarely, if ever, happened in the world I grew up in. Over after-school snacks, I explained a bit about homosexuality and made certain my kids understood how hurtful tossing around words like “gay” in a pejorative sense could be. It was during the mental gymnastics I was doing to explain enough, but no too much, about sexuality in general that I realized that I, too, was proud of the Gay Community.

When I stopped to consider the resiliency of the men and women who’ve been attacked and marginalized their whole lives for simply being themselves, I saw in them human characteristics worthy of emulation.

To me, “Gay Pride” used to be a term that only applied to gay people. But after seeing the responses to the Orlando shooting, I share in that pride. The sheer strength of the human spirit on display in Florida should be celebrated and embraced. While I am not gay, I am proud to share in that spirit and carry a firm respect for those men and women who answer anger and rage with love.

In the years to come, after the anguish has subsided and the Pride Parades regain their gaiety, I wish my gay brothers and sisters all the best. March proudly down the street in your cowboy boots and sock, enjoy the freedom of a sundress over your hairy chest, or just stand on the side of the parade and clap. Whatever you do to celebrate, know that you and the actions of the Gay Community in the wake of this tragedy have earned the respect of this Marine Corps combat veteran.

Thank you for demonstrating some of the best parts of the human spirit.

#Orlando, #OrlandoUnited, #OrlandoShooting, #Respect

What I Never Told Detective John Hobbs

This has been percolating in my head and heart for a while, but sometimes you have to let things sit. This website is my professional face–it highlights my writing and efforts to assist veterans of all wars to find their way home–so I was hesitant to blur the line between personal and professional.

But it’s time.

Det John Hobbs

Det John Hobbs

Detective John Hobbs was a devoted peace officer, a caring father, and a loving husband–among other things. He was my cousin’s husband and father to their three great children. John spent his career in law enforcement with the Phoenix Police Department and was killed in a firefight on March 3rd, 2014.

I was at the park, playing with my two kids when my mother called me.

“Hey Ma, what’s up?” I asked, certain this was a social call to find out how her grandkids were doing.

“Not good. John was shot and killed today at work.”

My mom spent decades in a world where bad news doesn’t get better with time–as the wife of a career USN aviator, mother of two USMC helicopter pilots with five combat tours between them, and mother-in-law to a brave woman with more time in combat zones than any of them. She gets straight to the point.

I sat down in the lush grass while my kids shrieked on the swings.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.”  Was all I could say.

“Yeah, Fuck is right.” Mom never cusses. She filled me in on the details as she knew them, then hung up to be available for her sister. She’d let me know the arrangements as they came available.

We all attended his funeral–an event that was remarkable in its ability to show community support for a fallen Officer while remaining respectful to the wishes of the family. The support shown by the Phoenix PD, hundreds of law enforcement and public safety agencies from around the country, as well as the citizens who lined the streets by the thousands when the funeral procession drove by–was overwhelming and strangely uplifting at the same time.

But this post isn’t just about John. It’s also about the thousands of professionals just like him who risk their lives on a daily basis. This is my opportunity to say something to them that I failed to say to John.

John was impressed, more than he should have been, by my military service. He loved hearing about flying the Cobra in combat, about my missions with MCSOCOM Det One, and about military life in general. I was open and honest with him but I could tell he was making them out to be more than I thought they were. He shared stories about his experiences on the force as well, but always made them out to be less than they likely were.

I thought about joining the law enforcement community when I first left active duty–and then again several years later. The training I’d gone through on active duty set me up well for any number of positions in law enforcement. But what kept me from doing it was fear, fear that, no matter how good I was, someday some lucky douchebag would get the drop on me and I’d get killed. I was fine with going into combat–that’s a relatively straightforward issue. I wasn’t fine with having to be a target at all times, constrained by the law and unable to maintain a safe perimeter around me while being in places that make downtown Baghdad seem quaint.

I have more respect for law enforcement personnel now than ever before. The job they do, using force of personality and calm confidence to defuse situations more aptly suited for stun grenades and batons, is not one I feel I could do. Just like there are military personnel who make mistakes in crisis situations, so do some police officers. But that doesn’t diminish the honor and integrity of the vast majority of peace officers, not in my eyes.

I never said it to John, but I can say it to any Officer who reads this post:

Thank you.

 

 

#LawEnforcementWeek, #BlueLivesMatter, #LawEnforcementAppreciation, #PoliceWeek, #NationalPoliceWeek, #NationalLawEnforcementWeek, #HonorForTheBrave

DD-214: End or Beginning?

Dan SheehanUnless you plan on dying in uniform, eventually you’re going to get out of the military.  When you do leave, you’ll walk out of Admin on your last day carrying several copies of your DD-214; the official record of everything you did (good or bad) in uniform.  It will follow you everywhere you go for the rest of your life.

The question is:  Does a DD-214 signal the end of a journey, or the beginning?  The answer to that depends greatly on why you joined the military in the first place.

If you joined for educational or monetary purposes, then the DD-214 might signify the end–kind of like the divorce papers from a starter marriage:  “This stuff is yours, that stuff is mine, we were young and now it’s over.  Don’t call me.”

But if you joined because you wanted to serve something greater than yourself, because you understand the honor associated with doing something selfless, and sought tougher challenges than most will ever know, that little piece of paper is just the beginning.

Before you can realize this beginning, though, you have to answer this question:  Do I want to be a professional veteran, or a professional who is a veteran?  Your answer will determine the trajectory of your post-service life.

It’s easier and more common to be a professional veteran.  You slap some stickers on your truck, berate anyone who didn’t make the same sacrifices you did, wrap yourself in the memories of the past and hunker down.  The eventual career path you choose doesn’t matter–white collar, blue collar, no collar–you’ll be defined by your past, and thus constricted by it.  I’m not saying this is good or bad, just that choosing to define yourself solely by your past is an end, not a beginning.

But if you choose the other path, that of the professional who is a veteran, then you’ve embarked on a new journey entirely.  Again, the profession you choose doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you move forward into this new phase of your life emboldened and strengthened by the experiences of the past.  You’re able to use those experiences to overcome any challenges that come your way in the future.

But gaining this knowledge and strength doesn’t happen if you ignore your past, or if you use it like a club to keep everyone at arm’s reach.  This inner strength only comes from descending into the darker experiences you’ve lived through.  It’s only after doing the hard work to fully understand how they impacted you that you can emerge stronger on the other side.

Until now, my journey as a writer has been focused very closely on this process.  My first book, After Action, is the product of the time I spent re-living, re-experiencing, and finally comprehending what I’d been through in combat.  In the years after publishing that book, I realized just how unprepared I was for the challenges of coming home.  The thousands of veteran suicides and heartbreaking stories of warriors overcome by variations on the same challenges I’d faced showed me I was not alone.  A sense that my writing could help others, coupled with an obligation to share the lessons I’d learned, led me to write my second book, Continuing Actions.  These books were not easy to write but the efforts were worth it.

Now I’m taking a bit of my own medicine.  I’m at the crossroads of professional veteran v.s. writer who is a veteran, and I’m choosing the latter.  For me to become a professional veteran, all I would have to do is start writing military fiction, reliving the same themes and situations that had defined my time in service, and hunker down.  The internet would give me plenty of outlets to spew vitriolic, patriotic, “come-and-get-me-you-ISIS-SOB” slogans.  Who knows, I might even sell more books that way.

But that’s not what I want to do (I still want to sell books, but not that way).

Instead, I’ve started working on a new book–totally different from anything I’ve written so far.  I’m in the early story-boarding phase right now, throwing ideas on the wall to see which still seem like good ideas in the light of day.  The main filter I’m using to determine the trajectory of the story is this:  “Am I going to have fun writing this or not?”  If the answer is no–out it goes.  Where it stands right now, though, I can’t wait to start hammering it out.

So, I’m going to be making a shift in my writing.  I’ve said what I wanted to say about veterans issues, both on this blog and in my books, and now it’s time for me to change gears.  In the coming months my website will begin to reflect this change.  I’ll keep all the older material and blog posts, but the site will become more focused on my present–not my past.

Dan SheehanI’ve learned a lot by reliving my past.  But now it’s time to take those lessons and move forward. I’m not certain where the path leads, yet, but isn’t that the fun of taking a journey?  I hope you’ll come along for the ride because one thing’s for certain: it won’t be boring.

#AmWriting, #veterans, #22Kill, #OAF, #Military, #MentalHealth, #MakeADifference, #LeadFromTheFront, #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, #MovingForward, #Transition

 

A Vet’s Take: Quit Jerking-Off

I’m a veteran.  Many, if not most, of my friends are veterans as well.  My social media feeds are full of veterans–some I know in real life, some who are friends of friends.  In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, you can’t swing a dead cat around my Facebook feed without hitting a dozen posts from veterans proclaiming their readiness to gut every ISIS bastard they can find and fill their chest cavities with bacon.

Images of Lady Liberty rucking up and yomping across the ocean toward a smoldering Eiffel Tower compete with those of a bald eagle sharpening its talons for “most shared” status.  Memes of Hollywood badasses uttering defiant challenges to “Come over here and try that shit” clutter the comment sections of news reports.  This is social media masturbation at its best.

It may feel good in the moment, but it will soon be followed by a slightly embarrassed scramble for a kleenex.  Like strangling your balls, engaging in this sort of reactionary activity online is not necessarily a bad thing.  It only becomes a bad thing when it becomes a substitution for something real and substantive.

That’s why the reactions I’m seeing bother me.

As veterans, we have lived through experiences that have served as rites of passage since the first humans banded together into societies.  The experiences of war, the willingness of one person to give their life in defense of something greater than themselves, have served as a dividing line between the excesses of youth and the wisdom of maturity for thousands of years. We who have chosen to serve have accepted the challenges that, if survived, stand to transform us into the type of mature leaders our nation needs.  But this transformation doesn’t happen simply as a byproduct of survival–it requires real work, real suffering, and real effort for us to gain the wisdom of our experiences.

Gaining this knowledge has always been part of the warrior’s journey.  But, for some reason, it is not a challenge we, as modern warriors, have ever been told exists–let alone that executing it is as much our duty as killing the enemy in combat.  This leads many of us to wander aimlessly after leaving the service, stuck in a middle ground between war and peace and unable to move forward in life.  Our mission has changed, but we refuse to acknowledge it.

We should be processing our experiences, going back through the painful and stressful events of our service and gleaning something of value from them so that we can pass that information to others.  Our duty now, after we’ve served, is to do what we can to make those who come after us better prepared than we were.

 

This mission isn’t sexy.  It isn’t like the movies where a helo lands near a secluded cabin and a high ranking officer begs the retired badass veteran to come back in for one last mission–one that nobody but the bearded warrior can take on.  Chuck Norris’ characters, and their “one of a kind” missions are fantasy, yet proclaiming our willingness to accept those missions seems to be the loudest, most publicly acceptable way for veterans to make their voices heard.

But if those missions exist at all, there are hundreds of thousands of well-trained, eager members of the armed forces ready to take them on.  And there always will be.  Those young men and women don’t need us, as the veterans who’ve gone before, jerking-off over fantasy missions that have nothing to do with the reality of modern conflict.  They don’t need us to stoke the rage of the masses or encourage those with no concept of what it truly means to serve to commit our forces to battle.

They need us to be wise, to extract knowledge from the challenges we’ve faced, and to stand ready to share that knowledge with them when they need it.  There is no doubt that more battles are coming.  There is no doubt that more young men and women will choose to shoulder the burdens of peace and pledge their lives to protect others.  They’ll do this, and they’ll be very well prepared for the challenges of combat–just like we were.  And, just like we were, they’ll likely be unprepared for the challenges of coming home.

Learning how to move forward after the crucible of service is now our mission.  Post all the memes you like, shout your challenges to the devils of the world and fill the social media feeds with every Hollywood one-liner you can think of.  But when you’re done, grab your kleenex and get back to the real work of figuring out how to come home from war.

That’s what America needs from her veterans.

For specifics for how to fully come home from war, see Continuing Actions: A Warrior’s Guide to Coming Home.

Tom Ricks Reviews ‘Continuing Actions’

Tom Ricks has an impressive resume.  With five books under his belt (including the best-seller Fiasco), a Pulitzer prize for his reporting with the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and contributing editor for Foreign Policy Magazine, Tom has made a career out of calling bullshit on things that don’t seem right.

Which is why I am so very pleased with his review of my second book, Continuing Actions.

Here’s a link to the review on his blog:  Tom Ricks

 

Review by Tom Ricks, Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Wall Street Journaland Washington Post, bestselling author of Fiasco, Senior Fellow at Center for a New American Securityand contributing editor for Foreign Policy Magazine:

“On Saturday I picked up Continuing Actions, by Dan Sheehan. It had been sent as a gift, so out of courtesy I thought I should at least take a look. (I get about one book a day in the mail.)

Yow.

I wound up reading it in one sitting. It is really good, one of the best things I’ve read about coming home from war. It is much less clinical than most books and much more straight talk.
Two things set it apart: First, it is written by a Marine for soldiers and Marines. Example: You’re so jarhead tough you think you don’t have to discuss your emotions? “Get over it. This shit is real, it can really destroy you and your family, and you have to get over this hang-up about ‘emotions’ and move on.”
Second, it emphasizes that coming home is an essential part of the warrior’s journey. Compartmentalization was necessary for surviving in combat. But now it keeps you wired up. So de-compartmentalization is required to mentally come all the way home.
You’re not a syndrome, he argues. You’re a warrior who went through some defining moments and now you need to understand them. Right now you’re hunkered down behind the hesco barriers on your mental FOB, taking indirect fire from self-doubt, anxiety, depression, guilt and rage. You’ve learned some uncomfortable things about humankind and maybe about yourself. He writes of a friend who had to make a quick decision in combat. “His conscious decision to kill the boy was in direct conflict with his self-image as a good, caring person. The fact that the boy lived didn’t matter in the least. He’d made the decision to kill him—and now he knew what he was capable of.”
You need to get outside the wire and conduct patrols to deal with those things, he advises. Until you do that, you’re gonna be screwed up. “If you spend your life hiding behind a mask of strength, Hollywood heroism, or some shallow concept of warrior-hood, then nobody will ever truly know you.”
His recommendations also differ in some ways from the clinicians. Instead of seeing risk-taking activities such as parachuting or motorcycle racing as things to be avoided, he sees them as necessary—as long as they are done right. These people are natural risk takers, he notes. “The activity should be enough to give you the tingle of danger, not the intensity of actually dancing with death. You’ve done that and survived.”

He offers some very specific steps about how to proceed, and also some guardrails about when to call in a friend or a professional for help.”

Marketing Strategy: Reviews

You are probably saying “What?  Why’s Dan writing about his marketing strategy on his blog about coming home from war?”

Well, because it involves you, that’s why.

As you probably know, I’ve just published my second book, Continuing Actions.  Now that the book is available on amazon.com, my efforts shift from production to marketing.  Hence, this post.

The most valuable marketing tool available to a self-published author are the reviews posted on the book’s amazon.com product page.  These reviews allow potential readers to see what other readers, just like them, thought about the book.  The best reviews give a little background about the reviewer, state in their own words what the book was about, their reactions to it, and their subjective assessment of how valuable the book will be to other readers.  That’s it–quick, to the point, honest.

When I’m looking at a book online, I usually check out a few of the highest rankings then go to the lowest ones.  For the most part the highest rankings are all the same.  It’s in the low ones that you get a real feel for the book.  If the lowest ranking reviews are well thought out descriptions of substandard workmanship, writing, or content then I steer clear.  Usually, though, they are not.

Usually the lowest ranking reviews reveal that the book did not subscribe directly to the reviewers personally held beliefs, or didn’t stoke their anger at some policy/politician/societal problem that they hold dear.  Or they reveal that the reviewer didn’t bother to check and see what the book was about and was disappointed when 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t a “paint-by-numbers” book.  Either way, those low reviews are beneficial to me as a reader because they tell me that no reasonable person found anything substantial wrong with the book, so I should buy it.

Right now I am in the “soft-launch” phase of getting this second book out there.  I’ve sent it out to reviewers, publicity contacts, veterans groups, non-profits, major corporations and others.  Months will go by before these “seed corn” copies potentially sprout.  In the meantime, though, gathering reviews on amazon.com from early readers will ensure that, if publicity gods do smile upon my work in the future, then new readers will find thoughtful reviews online to help them decide to buy the book.

So, if you’ve read either of my books, but Continuing Actions especially because it currently only has one review, I’d really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to review it on amazon.  Building a solid base of customer reviews is critical if this book is going to be successful in its mission: helping present and future veterans come home from war.

Thanks,

Dan

Continuing Actions Is Now Available On Amazon

I’m very pleased to announce that my second book, Continuing Actions: A Warrior’s Guide to Coming Home is available for purchase at the following link: Continuing Actions: A Warrior’s Guide to Coming Home

I have written several posts explaining what this book is about, how it is different from my first one, and why I chose to write it.  I won’t rehash any of that here and will just close with this:

Continuing Actions is the book I wish I’d read before going into combat.  It wouldn’t have changed what I did in Iraq, but it would have better prepared me to deal with the aftereffects.  It is my hope that it can help other veterans, whether they came home five decades or five days ago, finally, fully, return home.

Thanks for waiting with me for this second book to come out.  I hope you find it worth the wait.

S/F

Dan

What’s In A Cover?

As the release of Continuing Actions: A Warrior’s Guide to Coming Home draws near, I thought I’d share a little bit about the cover design that the team from Ascent created for it.

I might be able to write, but that is where my creative talents end–I am not a visual arts kind of guy.  For both of my books, I have outsourced the creation of the cover design with little-to-no guidance about what I wanted them to look like.  Usually my instructions to the design team went something along the lines of, “I don’t want this, or that.  I want something that kinda says this, but with a little of that thrown in for good measure. ”  In short, I’m pretty sure I’m a nightmare client for them.  But, once again, they’ve come through with flying colors.

Continuing Actions Cover

The reasons I like this design are simple:  it encapsulates the book’s message in a striking visual manner.  Here are the elements as I see them:

The two troopers moving forward with weapons raised, fading away:  This image shows the confidence born of solid preparation, teamwork, and years of training for the physical challenges of combat.  Millions of us have advanced into dangerous situations like these two are doing–confident in our skills, our training, and in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will be there to cover our backs.

But that time of our lives is fading away, just like the two figures dissolving into the background.

On the right stands a man, hands in pockets, looking up in a posture of internal searching.  To me, he’s standing there thinking, “Well, fuck.  Now what?”  I know I’ve stood in that same posture and looked out over vistas from Virginia to Afghanistan with that exact thought running through my head.  This is the position many, if not most, veterans find themselves in when they come home.  The confidence we enjoyed when putting our hard-earned skills to the test in challenges we were well prepared for has become a distant memory.  In its place is self-doubt, distrust of our emotions and reactions, and an indistinct urge to constantly be doing something–but without any idea what, exactly, it is.

Continuing Actions is written for the figure on the right.  It is written to answer the question he seems to be asking himself, “Now what?”  Now that you’ve come home, now that you have left the battlefield, how do you move forward in your life?  This is the phase of our journey as warriors that we are least prepared for.  It is this lack of preparation that leaves us exposed to avoidable injuries and needless suffering.  The good news is that there is a lot that we, as individuals, can do to correct this gap in our training.

Whether you’ve been home for decades or are still on active duty, Continuing Actions contains information that can help you understand the full spectrum of the warrior’s journey.  It can help explain the normal responses and challenges warriors have always faced when coming home, identify ways that our modern training actually hampers our efforts to effectively deal with these challenges, and then provides pragmatic suggestions for how you can prepare yourself to face them when your time comes.

I am expecting the first physical copy of the new book to reach me today.  Once I’m certain that everything prints out the way I want it to, then it will be available on amazon.com.

It’s getting close, very close. . . .

New Interview in Encinitas Magazine

Encinitas MagazineEncinitas Magazine2My apologies if this post is too small to read clearly.  Here is a link to the online issue of Encinitas Magazine where you’ll find this article on pages 16 and 18: Encinitas Magazine