Dan Sheehan is a third-generation naval aviator. He was eager to test his skills as a Cobra gunship pilot in the theatre of combat - and then he got his chance, first, in East Timor, then during two tours of duty in Iraq.Read more...
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Dan Sheehan is a third-generation naval aviator. He was eager to test his skills as a Cobra gunship pilot in the theatre of combat - and then he got his chance, first, in East Timor, then during two tours of duty in Iraq.
The scenes in After Action crackle with tension and excitement as we follow his path into battle. Bullets pierce their Cobras as Dan and his comrades struggle to separate enemy fighters from civilians - ultimately deciding who lives and dies. Through blinding sandstorms, the smoke of battle and chaos of low-altitude firefights at night, Dan puts us in the front seat of the Cobra - where we white-knuckle our way through barrages of enemy fire - and into his head as he makes split-second decisions that carry lasting consequences.
But there is far more to Sheehan's story than this - an important reason why he wants us to understand what military men and women experience on the front lines of war. And what they bring home.
After the adrenaline rush of combat, something inside Dan would not turn off. He was a warrior, willing and proud to serve his country and he was fortunate to come out of battle whole, time and again. But he had not escaped Iraq untouched.
The subtle agitation he felt continued to grow into - restlessness - wariness - the hyper-vigilant sense that he needed to be always on guard. Even as he struggled to ignore it, the edginess grew, trailing him long after the action was over. Eventually, it began to intrude into his personal life, his intimate relationships, and threatened to hurt those he loved the most.
What Dan Sheehan learned, and what he exposes so bravely and frankly in his writing, sheds light on the invisible marks left on the soul of many warriors. As he shows us, admitting those marks are there is the next step in a veteran's journey after action.
If you are a warrior ...or know one... you will want to read this brave and moving memoir.
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
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