Suggested (strongly) reading in the Nelson sphere of influence.
You know when you are really looking forward to something when you find yourself meeting the Mailman at the box upon hearing his truck work its way down the street. That was the case with this book. I took the package, said thank you, unwrapped it, sat down and read it cover to cover.
If you have ever anonymously picked up the breakfast tab at Clayton’s for a group of young service members. If you prefer a Slam Burger at Danny’s to Ruth’s Criss across the bay. If you like the fact that U.S. military aircraft fly so low, slow and close that when you wave at the crews from the window of your $6500 p/m vacation condominium they wave back. If you actually like being woken up early by the sound of men running to cadence on the beach. Or if you recommended the movie Act of Valor to everyone you knew then you’ll love reading Damn Few: Making The Modern SEAL Warrior by Rorke Denver and Ellis Henican.
Oh big surprise, right? The guy who vacations next door to SEAL central likes the new SEAL book. Shocker. OK, admittedly, I am a fan. I have read many of the books published on this subject and I can tell you that this one is better written than most and it gave me a timely and distinct view of what is going on with the Teams. Denver like most SEALs I have known comes off as bright, interesting, entertaining, and candid about what he does for a living but he is also an officer with a college education and has an intense appreciation for history. His inspiration to join the Navy and go for SEALs was a book by Winston Churchill and he quotes Tecumseh if that gives you any indication of who this guy is.
Damn Few is another one of those good books written by men that have paid the price and done the deeds but manage to keep it all in proper perspective. These are smart, highly energetic, talented people with a broad range of sharply honed lethal skills yet they tell a good story in a clear, direct, matter of fact way that even a layman can understand. Denvers account of his time in the Navy is honest, authentic, understated, and inspiring to anyone remotely interested in and receptive to the warrior ethos. For me, reading this book is like spending a few hours over dinner at a favorite restaurant with somebody I immediately like and respect (my wife will attest to how rare this occurrence really is). You get to know them a little, gain some insight into their unique world, laugh a lot and don’t want the stories to stop or the evening to end.
Yes, it is a book about Navy SEALs, the authors life, and combat in shitty places but it is much more than that. It is also about what type of man becomes a SEAL, the intricate process of creating one, why SEAL Teams have been so successful over the last decade and how that has caused a major problem for Naval Special Warfare Command and the BUD/S instructor cadre. Specifically their recent string of highly publicized successes which made the rocket surgeons in Washington (civilian political leadership) want what? Well, more SEALs of course. Like ten times more and the guy (Denver) who was responsible for selecting and turning recruits into world class fighters tells us why that can’t and shouldn’t be done. An explanation sure to cause the “lets not keep score at Little League games” and “every child deserves a trophy” crowd great consternation.
Let me distill it down for you. SEALs are the military personification of exceptionalism and only a select few are ever capable of achieving that level of excellence…at least using the current definition of what being a good SEAL is which gets to the bigger question hanging over the entire U.S. Special Operations community. Should standards be adjusted to facilitate increased numbers of special operators? You will have to buy the book or download it from iTunes to find out the Lieutenant Commanders opinion but you already know mine. Hell no!
Anyway, I liked the book very much and have encouraged my children and players to read it. It is an outstanding story about exceptional people taking on colossal challenges and winning. Not just winning but finding a way to win life or death contests using their heads, hearts, and unique training. I am pleased to recommend it to you too.
UPDATE 4/14 – I had the pleasure of meeting Rorke recently. My brother and I got to spend a couple hours with him just sitting around a hotel suite talking about all kinds of things and he was pretty much who I expected him to be after reading this book. Geniune. Inspiring. Genuine. An all around good guy that is capable of killing you in several different languages and somebody I would like to have some cold Coors and hot Mexican food with.
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