Awards for After Action: The True Story of a Cobra Pilot’s Journey
Finalist: Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book 2013
Earned a 5-Star rating and declared “IndieReader Approved” by IndieReader.com
Awards for Continuing Actions: A Warrior’s Guide to Coming Home:
Gold Medal: 2015 Nautilus Book Awards, Personal Growth category
Bronze Medal: 2016 Independent Publishers Book Awards, Psychology category
CONTINUING ACTIONS: A WARRIOR’S GUIDE TO COMING HOME by Dan Sheehan is an excellent resource for returning war veterans as well as anyone who wants to understand what being a warrior is like. I recommend that any soldier and those who know and love our soldiers should check out this book.
The cover is superb. The colors are striking, and the imagery is well done. The back cover copy lets the reader know right away about why the book is worthwhile and what to expect. The author biography shows why this writer is uniquely qualified to pen this book. It was good to see an author photo.
Inside, the book is well planned and researched. The ideas and resources for warriors are well worth the time for readers to investigate. The author engages the reader with firsthand information and sets the scene very well. The foreword is excellent. For instance, don’t we all need enough sleep! This book shares so much and gives a tremendous insight to readers who haven’t served. We’ll never know everything, but Sheehan brings us close!
I have great respect for Dan Sheehan and appreciate his heart and spirit. I hope this insightful author continues to write books.
-Judge, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Not every returning veteran has full-blown PTSD, but many, if not most, experience a difficult transition from active duty to civilian life. Sheehan (After Action) here creates a manual for them. His theory is that the return is every bit as much a part of the warrior’s journey as training and active duty. Influenced by Joseph Campbell’s monomyth of the hero’s journey, he believes there is an “absence of guidance for the final stage of this journey.” Analogizing the process to a military operation, he suggests that much of what soldiers experience in uniform can help them out of it. The key is reversing the compartmentalization that soldiers in combat need to survive—at home, compartmentalization can wreak havoc. However, the author warns, “Some memories need to be treated like the HAZMAT they are.” Self-care, buddy-care, and professional help are the “framework for safety” necessary to manage the “danger involved with excavating the emotions and reactions of our past.” Ultimately, the book reminds those who may experience a loss of identity when they leave active duty that they remain trained soldiers who know how to identify and destroy the enemies keeping them from their objectives. This is a useful, no-nonsense guide.
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.”
–Review by Tom Ricks, Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, bestselling author of Fiasco, Senior Fellow at Center for a New American Security, and contributing editor for Foreign Policy Magazine:
“WORDS TO WARRIORS
The former Marine Corps major follows his solid 2013 memoir, “After Action: The True Story of a Cobra Pilot’s Journey,” by asking others to consider his proven, “pragmatic approach to the personal actions each of us must take in the final phase of the warrior’s journey.”
The challenges of coming home after combat “cannot be ignored, out-run, out-drank, or out-worked,” he says with authority, and he highlights two attributes that a warrior “can bring back from the unknown”: wisdom and insight.
His books exemplify both.”
–J.Ford Huffman, Military Times:
Reviews of After Action:
Starred Review: Publishers Weekly Select
“In this sensitive and intensely presented memoir, Sheehan addresses his tours of duty during the Iraq War and the burdens he grappled with as a result. His vivid prose conveys the turmoil and danger of piloting a combat helicopter and the special psychology of fighting, but his real story lies in dealing with the return to “normal” life. Sheehan presents with brutal clarity the illusory assumption that veterans can easily resume their prewar identities, and the impediments that the culture of wartime present to those needing assistance in adjusting to civilian life. Sheehan convincingly argues that other cultures are more attuned to the need for warriors to bear what he calls the “burden of peace.” His recognition that his initial sense of being unique in feeling maladjusted was wrong supports his claim that hiding the psychic wounds of combat is common. It is hard to quarrel with his view that the attention given to the extreme cases detracts from the more frequent, if less dramatic, woes of the average veteran. Sheehan’s writing and recommendations deserve the attention of anyone interested in this important issue, which is as topical as tomorrow’s headlines.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly Select, 6 July 2013: pg 51
Military Writers Society of America:
“Open the cover to get a pictoral view through a Marine pilot’s magnified optics from the front seat of a killer Cobra helicopter.
His dangerous job is well done, but you feel the internal and lasting conflicts that come from the fight.
This third generation military aviator vividly portrays the details of external and internal carnage that transpire when a human assumes the role of warrior and “bears the burden of peace.” Well paced action and reflective insight balance out into an incredible read.
The author chooses analogies to help others find their way who also wear the deep scars from a kill or be killed combat experience. Sometimes there are no exact answers for killing in the line of duty, but Sheehan shares coping mechanisms that work. Dan does a great job relating how to understand, adjust, carry on, and succeed after war. AFTER ACTION has my highest recommendation. It is a remarkable human battle story and a healing tool.”
Reviewed by:Hodge Wood (2014)
Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards:
“This is an excellent book on several levels. It describes the insidious onslaught of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in returning veterans. It advances the cause of not forcing veterans to admit their problem before any treatment is given. Sense-stirring descriptions of air combat, and the terrible responsibility pilots of Cobra helicopter gunships face when deciding whether to kill people or not with their rockets, are both riveting. Perhaps most of all the highly personal autobiographical book candidly depicts how the author finally overcame excessive drinking and “with the help of his wife“ managed to adjust years after his military service ended and he was happily married with children. He relates how a remarkable epiphany taught him the true meaning of being a warrior and helped absolve his feelings of guilt and unease. The flight action sequences are very vivid, starting with his initial deployment to East Timor after the tiny country separated from Indonesia, and then to longer and more dangerous deployments to Iraq. The camaraderie of pilots comes across well with credible dialogue, though it’s probably both remembered and reconstructed. Adroit use of interior monologue enhances many pulsating scenes and puts the reader, to some extent, in the head of the author pilot. Many subheads enable easy and quick reading.”
IndieReader Rating: 5 Stars
“AFTER ACTION is the account of a U.S. Marine’s tours of combat and his consequent PTSD. Author Dan Sheehan piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra in East Timor in 2000 and again during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2004, he was deployed to Iraq a second time, as part of special operations infantry.
The memoir provides an informative and exciting account of an attack helicopter pilot’s combat in the Iraq War. Sheehan recounts exhilarating flights destroying buildings and enemy artillery with TOW and Hellfire missiles. He and his fellow pilots are additionally armed with Gatling cannons and high-explosive and fléchette rockets. Despite their heavily armored aircrafts, their lives are threatened by anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
They have numerous technical failures—revealing how warfare equipment often malfunctions. Multiple times missiles fail to launch or target properly. Sheehan recounts electronics not working, cannons jamming, and radios and optical systems breaking.
Sheehan also writes of failures of the human body. He often is pushed to work while fatigued, relying on coffee, dipping tobacco, and finally stimulant pills to stay awake. At times they make flying mistakes almost ending in ruin.
Apart from the physical challenges, Sheehan writes revealingly of his mentality as a Marine Cobra pilot. Periods of calm cause disappointment, while combat becomes addictive. In one part: “Silently I sat, watching the man get cut in half and re-living the fascination and euphoria I’d felt. My pulse started to pound again with the recollection of the Iraqi soldier’s violent end. I felt strangely guilty at the rush it gave me—like I was watching porn.”
Yet Sheehan is not a single-minded killer. He also expresses an ongoing fear of hurting non-combatants or friendly troops. This becomes part of a growing mental unease, which strikes inexplicably at times. After duty ends, his bloodlust turns to intense guilt over killing, also questioning the moral justification of the war. Though determined to hide these feelings, he later reconciles them with his identity as a man and warrior.
AFTER ACTION is not for those sensitive to profanity or depictions of real bloodshed. However, it provides a remarkable window into the experiences of combat pilots and the mindset of soldiers.”–Reviewed by Christopher James Dubey for IndieReader
“Sheehan’s “adult life had been spent developing my Marine persona, impervious to pain or stress,” and his “internal pep talks were always profane.” When “that b—- unease would slip in and spoil everything,” Sheehan tries to live in a conundrum. “I didn’t want to process any of the events in Iraq. I wanted to move on with my life … but I still wanted others to comprehend the immensity of what I’d been though.” The former major is candid about his shortcomings, and his memoir deserves a wide audience.” — J. Ford Huffman, Military Times, May 2013