Some may wonder why I, a romance novelist, am reviewing Damn Few, a book about training America's elite warriors, the Navy SEALs. That's easy to answer. It's because I am a romance novelist. I write books wherein the male lead is always a hero: a man who does the right thing for the right reasons.
Actually, My Cup of Tea
I've read and reviewed quite a few military memoirs. I admire men who put themselves in harm's way for the greater good of their fellow soldiers and their country. Rorke Denver, former head of Basic and Advanced SEAL Training is one of these men. In his book, he shares his own experience as a SEAL and later as the man who directed SEAL Training, as well as his philosophical insights into the mental and emotional makeup of a candidate who successfully completes SEAL training and wins the Trident, the gold pin that is the visible symbol of being a SEAL.
Of all the books I've read about Navy SEALs, this is the first that offers the perspective of an officer who was an active duty SEAL and who was the officer in charge of a SEAL team. Denver shows the hard decisions an officer must make to consider the risk and reward of every operation, to deploy his team effectively, and to know that every decision he makes will affect not only a SEAL in his command but also the wife, children, parents, and siblings waiting stateside for that SEAL to return.
Although not characterized by "war stories" of firefight after firefight, Denver's story has power that comes from the emotion and philosophy he infuses. To be perfectly honest, he had me from the first line of the dedication: "For my wife, my heartbeat." There is not a woman on this earth who would not be affected by such a declaration of love. The fact that it comes from a man's man, a warrior, just makes the sentiment more profound.
Triple Threat Content
There are three sections in the book: Learning It, Doing It, and Passing It On. If you've seen any of the popular television documentaries that began popping up after the rescue of Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips in 2009, then you probably are familiar with the Navy SEALs BUD/s Training and Hell Week.
Learning It, the first third of the book, deals with BUD/s and Hell Week in detail as well as an analysis of why some men make it, some don't, and some quit before anything really hellish even begins.
The second third of the book, Doing It, covers the Peacetime Warrior era and Denver's long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated insertion into war-torn Iraq.
Passing It On is the final third of the book. Denver discusses his movie role as a Navy SEAL in the movie "Act of Valor," produced by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh and written by Kurt Johnstad who wrote the screenplay for the very successful "300," about King Leonidas and his 300 men who fought the Persians at Thermopylae. After reading the "behind the scenes" story of this movie, I plan to watch it again with an eye for the detail Denver mentions.
More importantly, in this part of the book, Denver presents the challenges facing the SEAL program now when they are under pressure to produce more SEALs, as if that would be the ultimate answer to the challenges facing our country. I think it's obvious to anyone, after reading this book, and others written by SEALs, that if more SEALs are wanted, they'd better start young.
What Makes A Warrior
The will to prevail--to never give up--is the overriding characteristic of these warriors. That is not something that can be created in an adult. It's something that is created as a child grows and is influenced by parents, by a value system that emphasizes greater good as well as a belief in one's ability to succeed, just to mention the obvious.
Damn Few is a testament to heroic men who are not saints, but who are selfless in their patriotism. Perhaps more than any other group of people, SEALs recognize, as Denver says in his book: "You can do everything right, and things can still go catastrophically wrong." How tragically true.
At the beginning of Damn Few, Denver quotes an early Scottish toast that seems ironically appropriate given the murder of SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle, killed by a former soldier he was trying to help. "Here's tae us / Wha's like us? / Damn few, / And they're a' dead."
Damn Few will inspire, educate, and instill in you a deep appreciation for these men who are the ultimate warriors and for their willingness to make hard decisions and do the right thing.
Special Invitation For My Readers
On February 19, at 6pm EST, Rorke Denver, the author, will be doing a live video chat about his book. You are invited to participate. You can ask questions via text or even on video. Please RSVP using this link: http://bit.ly/WFeKnv
I didn't buy this book. I was sent an advanced reading copy by the Social Media Manager of Hyperion Books, the publisher, and asked if I would read it for review. The book is compelling and insightful, and I'd have been happy to plunk down the money for it.