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8

9-11 Thoughts and Remembrances

My son went to New York at the end of August, 2001, to attend NYU as a film student at the Tisch School of the Arts. Being a native of Northern California, like both my husband and myself, and both our dads, it was a big adjustment. So, my husband flew out with him to help get him settled. Our son wanted to be “at the center of the world,” and he felt NYC was the place to be.

After helping him get set up in his apartment, there were still things to be completed, so my husband considered staying another week, but decided at the last minute to let our son make those decisions himself.  So, Don came back on the Newark to San Francisco flight on Monday morning, 9-4-01, instead of the Newark to San Francisco flight on 9-11.

Early Monday morning on 9-11 our son left a voice message, telling us how clear and beautiful New York City was at 6 AM. He'd had a party in the apartment the night before, and there had been thunder and lightening all evening. But this day was clear and “perfect.” He luckily decided to go back to bed, rather than get up early to head downtown as he often did. His apartment was about 20 blocks from the World Trade Center.

What occurred later we all know. We talked to our son on his cell while he watched the second plane hit the WTC from his room, as we were watching it on TV. We watched the buildings collapse. Over the weeks that followed, many of the NYU students gave blood, donated water and sandwiches from the cafeteria, and my son thanked rescue workers, saying, “This is from my parents in California.”

The following Spring, Don and I went to New York to visit our son. We wanted to see the 9-11 makeshift memorials springing up all over the area: posters on iron fenceposts with letters from school children and pictures of loved ones lost or never heard from again. There had been some extra “walls” created so people could express themselves, leave mementos and just read the posts and feel a part of the experience.

While we were waiting in line to visit the Ground Zero site, there was work being done to clean up the white chalky debris still left behind after 5 months, righting flattened tombstones that had stood for a hundred years or more, cleaning up piles of twisted metal. We stood beneath a tree that was trying to send out new green shoots. Building material was still stuck in its branches. When I looked more carefully, the twisted pieces of metal that looked like cream-colored oversized bunches of grapes were actually mangled miniblinds whirled in a twisted sculpture. And the mossy-like substance that hung from the branches? Shredded upholstery fabric and pantyhose.

I would learn years later that the valedictorian of my graduating class in Palo Alto was giving a presentation for a non-profit Jewish organization helping young women to become successful. She was hosting a luncheon at the “Windows On The World” restaurant at the top. Her name was Naomi Solomon.

Several years later, another member of our graduating class, an exchange student from Algeria, told me at our 40th reunion party, when he brought his wife, children and his parents, introducing them to our class, that the year he spent in California was the greatest year of his life. He told me he carried a deep love of our country with him back to Algeria, where he worked for the U.N. there. Where his wife worked at a school for girls. A year later, he was killed in the 2007 suicide bombing of the U.N. Refugee Relief center. His name was Chad Hamza.

20% of the people in the U.S. knew someone who lost their life on 9-11. Citizens from more than 40 countries were represented among the dead and dying. The average age of the loss of life was between 30-39. Thousands of pints of blood were collected and less than 300 were actually used.

There are thousands of stories told by millions of people. We wish the world was a safer place, but wishing it doesn't make it so. We have a lot to be thankful for. We have a lot to love. We have a lot to protect.

And may we always remember.

2

Hard To Remember That Kind of September

You've all heard the stories of what 9-11 means to different people around the globe. On remembrance days like these we are indeed a small blue planet. We are more connected than we realize. On days like these it comes home that although we live in many different places, towns or cities across the world, we are more alike than we are different.

Indulge me for a re-telling of history.

My son was attending NYU and he left me a voicemail on the morning of 9-11, about 26 blocks from where the World Trade Center Towers then stood. He told me about the stormy night it had been the night before, and about the party he'd had in his tiny apartment.

“But today, Mom, the sky is blue and clear. Not a cloud in the sky. It's beautiful. I'm so lucky to be here.”

Those were his exact words.

About twenty minutes after he left that message the Towers were hit. We watched from our TV at home in California while he watched the Towers fall from his apartment.

I would not learn until later that the Valedictorian of my high school graduating class in Palo Alto, Naomi Solomon, was at the top, The Windows Of The World, giving a speech. I see her name come across the screen every year as they read off those that perished that day.

I think of the first responders who sacrificed their lives to help save others. The families impacted. How the NYU community was impacted and how many parents pulled their kids out of school to come home.

I hugged my kids more that day, as we all did.

There was no talk about politics because the grieving was bipartisan, in fact, it was world-wide as people from all nationalities, faiths and cultures perished that day. We all grieved together.

The consequences of this attack would play out over these last 18 years. Wars fought overseas with strange names we've never heard of before. Brave young men and women also gave up their lives in all parts of the world because of it.

Young men and women who watched the TV coverage that day did more than pray. Some of them made a decision to fight when they were old enough. And so on and so on it goes.

It was a horrible day, but as has been said many times, through tragedy comes the best of us. And the hope that one day, if we keep working and honoring those who were lost, that we learn to live together as brothers, despite our pain.

When we stop shouting, and remember to take a hand instead.

Because one thing will always remain: Love is still and always will be stronger than hate.

If you'd like to read an old post I did back in 2012, with this story, as well as a couple other ones, click here: https://sharonhamiltonauthor.com/?s=9-11

4

Pearl Harbor

In February, I attended a writer's conference in Hawaii, organized by the wonderful author, Violet Duke.  It was my honor to sponsor a tour of the Arizona Memorial. I've been before, but wanted to make it so others who hadn't, got to experience it. December 7th is just three days from now.

Words do not do this beautiful memorial justice. I watched the peaceful waters of the bay, the oil still leaking from the Arizona herself, flowing out to sea, mixed with my flower lei I brought to honor those who served for me so bravely and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I really don't get into the full holiday spirit until after this milestone is passed. Just like I don't ever get to Thanksgiving without remembering 9-11 or the assasination of JFK. These are just points in my life I celebrate. And yes, I say celebrate.

The ones who are gone would want me to do so. I can't bring them back, but I can make sure they live on forever. We came together during these huge times in our country's history. All creeds and races, religions. Everyone knew where they were during that time, or remembered going back to visit the memorials if they were too young to remember the live event. We think about those gone, and vow they will not be forgotten. It's our job, because right now, we are the living. Won't always be so but for right now, we are.

I was struck again by the photographs of the young pilot, Setuo Ishino, who flew into the Missouri, and the military send-off he received, draped in a Japanese flag sewn by a crew of Navy kitchen swabs. The letter that was written to his parents, telling of his bravery. The men who saluted as he was returned to the sea. I see the other letters written by the other Kamakaze pilots to their parents before their missions, men who would be screwed into their cockpits for no escape. I saw the picture of his family when the boy was two, holding an airplane.

There is insanity in war. And there is decency and honor even in the worst of times. I am reminded of what someone said, “Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person.”

My little part of this is only to help people remember what bravery and true honor really is all about. The selfless courage of common men and women, who do uncommon things. Things they never dreamed they would or could do, but somehow they just do.

And I say thank you to all who have served and are serving today.

11

Valley Forge Celebration

Last weekend I attended a book signing at Valley Forge, at the Freedom Foundation Center building, hosted by Renee Fisher and A.L. Wood. I'd never been to Valley Forge before, and it moved me greatly.

I trust my gut instincts when it comes to events. This one was on my list because I have a lot of readers in the area, and I'd never been here before. I try to switch where I go so I can network with readers. As next year comes around, I will be cutting back, or hopefully so, so I'm going to be careful with my time and money. But Renee and I began emailing back and forth, and I found a new, warm friend, and one who I hope to get to know even more as the years go by.

As events went, it was wonderful, especially with all the planning Renee and her team did. Awesome fans, and people helping her. But the whole area was what made it even more special to me. Cloaked in history, I found myself so moved, it was hard for me not to cry as I toured the State Park and looked at the history of my country.

Remember, politics is completely separate from love of country. I wish it wasn't so, but especially this year, it is. Somehow, as a country we muddle through, because of the foundation that was laid nearly 250 years ago now. I was struck with the sacrifice, not only in terms of life, but title, fortunes lost and titles or privileges removed, including the impact the Revolutionary War had on Native Americans, who fought with either side. Their fortunes were caught up in the war as well. It happened again in the American Civil War.

It's been said more than once that we form an imperfect union. And yet, this union has withstood the battles of nasty elections, strife, intrigue, treachery, greed, and the life blood of the nation, a belief in a principle far greater than all of us combined: freedom. The quote that comes to me when I think about walking around the Valley Forge center is: “I never said it was going to be easy. I said it was going to be worth it.”

In California, we don't have these types of monuments to honor our history of this time period. We have very few patriotic displays in California. Our local post office just repainted their lobby, and they took down all the pictures of the men and women serving in the military, some of whom bore gold stars, which was erected after 9-11. How things change, go back to the way they were before. I see fewer and fewer American flags and more and more bumper stickers for campaigns. I haven't had a political sticker on my car since I had the “Reelect Nobody” back in the 1990's. “Wag More. Bark Less” is another one I had for years.

As I had my tomato soup in the bar at the hotel after the signing, looking at the celebrations of two wedding parties, the glasses crushed, hugs given and kisses shared, the loudness of people celebrating and just going on with their lives, I was pulled back to what George Washington would think if he were sitting with me.

I don't know that I would have an adequate explanation for how our country has fared, except to say, we've made it this far. I hope we will continue. We continue to right some of the terrible wrongs of the past, we continue to try to hold up our system of laws and government that has proven to be the most stable in the whole world. I was reminded about what a special country we have here, how it's bloody roots were hard fought, and how much I appreciate the sacrifices. And just like the fallen heroes, the best thing I can do to honor them all is just to go on. Not give up. Keep the memory of the miracle that is this nation alive in my heart. And maybe to remind others.

Valley Forge is a place everyone should see. 10% of the men who wintered over here that third year into the war were diseased and would eventually not see the spring. Another 10% didn't even have shoes to wear. Dissertions were high, expectations were at an all time low. Our Commander In Chief knew that even in the worst of times, it was the time to prepare. The outcome of the war was uncertain. Philadelphia had been lost. Washington looked across the Delaware, and envisioned a country and it's freedom.

And he decided it was worth it. All those men did. They trained. They healed, those who could, and they got equipment and clothing, often having to seize it from local inhabitants who also needed the clothing and equipment, and sometimes at gunpoint. Loyalties were tested. The army of Washington faced a better armed British army, larger and better trained than our rag-tag Patriots in the Spring. And the Patriots eventually won.

It took 7 years. Even years later things were not stable. I complain about our political season lasting so long. But those woes are peanuts compared to what was fought, and lost during those 7 precious years. Families who were lost, sacrificed, interrupted by something bigger than themselves.

In the end, it was worth it.

11

COMMUNITY. SHARING LIFE.

As we honor and memorialize the 9-11 anniversary of the Twin Towers terrorist attacks, I'm reminded, again, how we are all connected. Forever.

We watched the towers fall from our television set in California, while on the phone with our son, who was attending NYU. He watched from the dorms some 26 blocks away.

I didn't know until later that I lost a member of my graduating class at Gunn in Palo Alto. Or that later I'd lose another member of my class in an attack on the UN offices in Algeria. I will never forget, as I'm sure most of you will never forget, where you were when you heard the news. We go forward with heavy hearts, but it never gets old to remember those who sacrificed so much. If we are truly to live, we need to do this as a world. It goes far beyond country, religion or cultural ethnicity. It is a scar on the landscape of the whole world, healed by love and remembrance.

Yesterday I spoke to the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America. My topic was on becoming an Elite Warrior Indie Author. I've had the good fortune to meet, interview and be mentored by some of the greatest minds of today. Hopefully, I brought some of that to focus for the group.

A highlight of the day was that a group of readers came all the way from Sacramento to visit!  It became clear to me, as I was preparing my talk, that our stories, once they leave us, no longer belong to us, but belong to the readers. How perfect that they were there.

We all want the easy walk, the life without conflict, tooling down the road of success and happiness like the resolutions in our romance novels. But reality isn't like that at all. The beauty of the fabric of life is that we are all connected. We share our lives with each other. We share our stories. We share our tears, and we share how we all move on.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

8

REUNION – Stepping Back To The Future

Sitting with Mr. Turner and Bonnie McClung Chappa, 2006

I am coming up on a big reunion this summer. We were the first graduating class of Gunn High School in Palo Alto. I was one of the twelve students selected to be on a committee to set up our school. We chose our mascot, set up the Student Government, made all sorts of decisions and selected some we wanted the student body to vote on when we started in the fall.

Prior to attending Gunn, our class was split in two. Some went to Palo Alto High, and some went to Cubberly. We started our new adventure as Juniors, with a Sophomore class beneath us. By the time we graduated, Gunn had all three years in place.

There were lots of firsts that occurred, and now looking back some 50 years, I can hardly believe the time has gone so fast. It's been fun chatting online with friends I knew way back then, reconnected with at various reunions over the years as our careers took off and our families grew. Some of us went on to do great things in politics and business and other fields.

Sadly, there are nearly twenty of us who have moved on to their next life, or so I believe. I've written about two of my classmates before. Naomi Solomon, who was our Valedictorian and who was giving a speech to a group of women during a breakfast fundraiser to help women re-enter the work force the day of 9-11. I watch her name come up on my TV screen nearly every year. In 2015, there was a rainbow shown over the city as her name was broadcasted and read.

Another one of our students worked for the U.N. in Algeria, “I take a little piece of California with me back to Algeria – this was one of the greatest years of my life,” he told me at our reunion ten years ago. Brought his whole family over so we could meet them. Chad was killed in the terrorist bombing in Algiers in 2007, a year later.

I had a favorite teacher, John Turner, who inspired in me my love of writing. At the time of the last reunion in 2006, I was selling real estate full time. It wouldn't be for another two years before I'd catch that bug.
Imagine the day I saw Mr. Turner walk down Sonoma Avenue on his way to shop in Montgomery Village. Of all places for him to land, Santa Rosa was not a place I would expect him. We'd talk occasionally and when our reunion was being planned in 2006 I asked him if I could drive him down to Palo Alto for the party so he could meet some of his students again. He was delighted. I picked him up as promised, in front of his apartment.
“You're five minutes late,” was what he greeted me with.
We attended the mixer that night and the picnic and luncheon the next day. He'd brought a list of the students and wrote notes while he talked to us all. It was a pure joy to spend that time with him. Sadly, this year, he just missed this year's events.
Part of my life's story is the people I've gotten to know. We are the sum total of the parts of everyone's story. For those of us who remain behind, our job is to remember and honor those who came before, until our book of life is finished. And then to pass the torch on to the next generation. We all do it in our own way and in our own time. But we all are blessed by the experience.

11

Holding On To Christmas: Sundays With Sharon (Except it’s Monday) and other stories…

First Christmas Tree, Madison Square Park 1906

I am guilty, especially this year, of holding on to Christmas, perhaps a little too tight. I will be a mess the day we take the tree down and put away all the ornaments and decorations. I like to buy things after Christmas, and this year I haven't done any shopping, except exchange for a jacket that didn't fit my daughter. It's a do-over.

I wish we could make Christmas a do-over. I have a lot of work staring me in the face in January.

I took a lot of days of rest this December, got well, emersed myself in family traditions, put on a big dinner with 38# of prime rib that was out of this world, gave some presents that were close to my heart. At the end of it all, I still wonder if I did enough. I know I shouldn't feel guilty of taking a few private days for myself – watching Knick in binge mode, going to the movies twice and just watching as the Christmas lights danced in my grandchildren's eyes. The bears were a hit and we got a beautiful video of all three Eastern Grands playing with them.

My dogs have eaten 3 rib bones already, and I've been lovingly vacuuming up white bone splinters here and there. My bedspread has paw prints on it and will have to be washed.

We wore ugly sweaters for Christmas morning breakfast, our tradition, and carried on the tradition of my grandparents some 90 years ago when they were a young newlywed couple. Forgive me if you've heard the story before, but here it is again.

My grandfather was a young preacher in Illinois, at his first church. Many of you know he started from a wealthy family in upstate New York, his mother was a concert pianist and his father was a “man of business.” They had racehorses and a beautiful home that stood above the Hudson River he liked to say the New York Stock Exchange was copied after. My grandfather was training to be a stock broker.

My grandfather witnessed a suicide, a man jumping from an office window, when he'd lost his fortunes. It had such an impression on him, he felt called to do something about it, and so began preaching in Madison Square Park. Yes, it was the park Madison Square Gardens was named after. As a child I was told it was, “On the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway.”

Apparently it was known in the day as a kind of Speaker's Park, where people could get up on a box and begin to protest or to preach. My grandfather became a well-known regular, and turned his back on his wealthy upbringing. A gentleman used to stop by and listen to him, later telling him he should get a degree and become a leader of a flock. He even helped pay for an education at the divinity school. Grandpa got involved in the Riverside Baptist Church, and became an ordained Baptist minister some years later. I can remember a picture of this church was on his wall.

Madison Square Park today

His first church, then, was in Illinois. He'd already met and married my grandmother, an invalid he'd called upon, and with the help of his readings and the love of the handsome young preacher, she got out of bed and became his partner in all things. A woman who was supposed to die in her late twenties, she went on to bear two children and live to be 73 (outliving 3 of her doctors). I always loved hearing that story, because it read like the Brownings.

That first Christmas they were snowed in, and Grandma wasn't able to go out and get the shopping done for Christmas dinner. All she had were eggs, canned pineapple rings, and some sausage. She made a dinner, using red and green sprinkles on the pineapple rings, served the sausage and eggs and her famous fresh biscuits. And that has become our family traditional Christmas morning breakfast ever since.

When we went back to visit the 9-11 memorial some years ago, and to visit our son, then attending NYU Film School, my husband and I sat in the park, and yes, I could hear my grandfather's words echoing in the distance, bouncing off the faces of now-famous buildings, one of them the Flatiron Building. I felt the connection to my past, his past.

Maybe this year we'll leave up all our decorations until Easter, like we did one year, until my youngest burst into tears and told me he couldn't invite over his friends because “our Christmas Tree is still up.”

Yes, I am guilty of holding on too much. I never give up on a good story, or a memory. I never forget that who I am today is the result of those who came before me and who gave their life's stories, customs, and history.

But I don't have to worry about it today. I have a book to write, a book to finish, and it's a long time before Easter.

18

Interview: In The Shadow of Greatness

Joshua Welle and Graham Plaster, I must say, it is entirely a privilege to interview the two of you. Can’t wait to spread word about your wonderful book.

We military romance novelists write stories with military heroes. Different genre than yours, of course, but our readers like to learn about heroes and heroines who do the right thing, rise to the challenge and, against all odds, achieve a happily ever after. We wish it was always so in real life for these brave men and women.

In romance, we create fictional stories, based on things that could happen, not what did happen. Our average romance reader reads 3-4 books a week. It is estimated to be upwards of 51% of the publishing market. There is currently huge interest in things military, especially Special Ops.

So, thank you not only for your service, but for your time. I've written some questions about this book I think other writers and readers would want to know. So, welcome, and let's begin.

Tell me how you got the idea to put together the stories in this book? Who came up with the idea and how did it happen?


The concept for the book was originally a solicitation to our classmates, the first class to graduate from the US Naval Academy following 9-11, asking them to write something reflecting on their experiences over the past 10 years. We received 63 submissions over the course of three years and spent a considerable amount of time processing the themes that were emerging in the short stories.  



Our primary reason for writing the book was to give voice to our current generation of leaders, promoting an honest but hopeful vision for the country.  We're excited about the result because the book is exceeding our expectations.  Not only was there a lot of interest to write, but there has also been tremendous energy and support from those who are reading the stories.

Whose idea was it?

Joshua Welle, our class President, along with the elected leadership of the class, initiated the project.  Josh deservers the lion's share of the credit for networking with veteran's groups and book endorsers, but we've also assembled a highly talented team of editors, PR and social media professionals.  It has been a team effort.  The four editors on the cover, Josh Welle, John Ennis, Katherine Kranz and Graham Plaster, worked with the content of the book and created the anthology which is the final product.

Who do you want to read this book? Why?

As Tom Brokaw has already said, this book is a “must read for all Americans.”  We think that it is a book that can be read by young and old alike, military and civilians.  The stories are short and inspirational, providing insight from up and coming military leaders. They would make great leadership case studies for any group working through particular issues.  


The broader theme of the book is bigger than military service.  By honoring veterans in the book, we also want to cultivate a national dialogue surrounding the enduring qualities that make America great.  These qualities – cherished, defended and exemplified by our veterans, are worth discussing as we continue to grapple with strategic decisions for America.

Tell us how the book is structured and some of the tales it contains.

The book is structured thematically, starting with short stories about experiences at the Naval Academy and remembrances of 9-11, followed by war stories and anecdotes of heroism.  Finally, there are several stories about life after the military, the impact of military service on community leadership and major changes to military and civilian culture over the past 10 years.

Some folks tend to think of their 20s as a carefree decade in their lives…yours was not. Would you have had it any other way?

This is a question that is best answered by reading the book. The answer is mostly no, but there are shadows in our stories.  Not everything is black and white. When we applied to the Naval Academy, we were attracted to the crisp distinctions between navy blue and white, good and evil, satisfactory and unsatisfatory.  These paradigms were tested.  Read the book to get an inside glimpse of how we navigated those waters.

Only 1% of Americans are wearing the uniform and fighting the nation’s post-9/11 wars…should this be a concern?

There is a different opinion on this for every contributor to the book, and the editors cannot speak on behalf of everyone for questions like this, but even in leadership classes at the Naval Academy we discussed the widening culture gap between the military and civilian life. This is a concern to some people, and simply par for the course if you ask others.  


There is a culture gap in any specialization, and in some cases the military does a much better job of keeping the public informed about our values and sacrifices.  We rely heavily on the non-profits, civic organizations and veteran support groups to ensure this gap is bridged.  We are so thankful to those who do understand military sacrifice.  This book is a bridge across that gap.

How has the military treated you and your family?

The military has tremendous programs in place to support families, and the close knit communities that form on far flung bases are the bedrock of American society.  Supporting families is a high priority to our leaders in the military, which is why failures in the system get so much scrutiny.  It is through the difficult process of discussing shortcomings in the system of support that we make it better.  We have confidence that as we raise issues, leaders from our generation will continue to rise to the challenge of supporting military families in the years to come.

And by supporting those families, we learn to heal our nation as a whole. How did you decide who to invite into this endeavor?

The entire class was invited to participate.  Not everyone wanted to write, felt like they were in a position to write.  Because we are still mid-career, there are many questions that go into a project like this.  Am I writing for a good reason?  Am I writing what needs to be said?  Am I correcting a misconception?  We wrestled with these questions as writers and peer editors.

Tell me your most inspirational story and why?

One of the most moving accounts is written by Lisa Freeman, mother of Matt Freeman, who was killed in action.  She writes from the perspective of her son.  When she was first approached to write, she was still too raw from the loss of her son.  Through the process of putting words to paper, and working with the classmates of her son to edit the story, she was able to work through some of the difficult emotions.  She spoke at our national book launch at 9-11 and received a standing ovation for her courage and the great work being done in Matt’s name through The Matthew Freeman Project (freemanproject.org).

Let's hope that some of our readers today can help you and Mrs. Freeman with that goal. Do you have plans for future projects along the same lines? Or, anything you felt got left out because it needs a separate book?

We have 30 more stories that will be published directly to eBook, hopefully soon.  All profits from the book and eBook go to veteran charities.  Our only goal is to make sure the stories get told.

What would you like readers to know about this book?

This is a really unique book.  Many memoirs are written at the twilight of a career, this is a slice of life from 33 mid-career leaders.  Who knows what will become of them?  There may be a future government official or CEO in the mix.  This hall of heroes is an exciting glimpse into the making of America’s next generation of leaders – where they are now and where they might be headed.

What would you like readers to know about you, your team of writers?

We had a few professionals help us with editing, but for the most part, the writing was done by the “doers”.  We had over a hundred submissions by the time we were done, but had to edit it down to reduce redundancy in some of the themes, and find a common thread.  The common elements are leadership, sacrifice and service – across the board.  These are men and women who have done incredible things and will continue to serve our country in heroic ways when they are out of uniform.

Especially with what has happened with current events, why is reading this book so important? What will readers find here they won’t find elsewhere?

Hollywood and newspapers give their accounts of war, but this book allows us to speak for ourselves.  We were eager to write the book to clarify certain misconceptions and help bridge the cultural gap between military families and non-military families.


I'm sure others will agree with me, it is truly an honor to have you here today, and we thank you, not only for your service, but for helping us understand what it takes to be a true leader, told by those who are living it every day.


Some of our readers may have questions and comments. We welcome one and all. Those of you who can, leave them some likes and tags on Amazon here.


Thank you both,


Sharon Hamilton


Excerpts are available at http://shadowofgreatness.com/lookinsid

In The Shadow of Greatness interview this Friday

This Friday, come back to this site for a gripping interview of the two editors/authors of the new Leadership book, In The Shadow Of Greatness.

This was the first graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy since the 9-11 disaster. It is a non-political book about what courage it takes to be one of America's leaders and the sacrifice it requires.

In my opinion, this should be read by every American citizen. Please show these men and women your support as they shape the vision for this great nation, which isn't always about black and white, red and blue, male and female. Leaders are born and created and step up to the plate every day. And they die that way too.

I am very honored and proud to bring it to you.

8

No Easy Day: Book Review and Comments

No Easy Day, the compelling book by former Navy SEAL Mark Owen, just released last week, is hard to pick up, and hard to put down. It recounts the events, including the almost 10 years of training, intelligence gathering, and coordination of hundreds of personnel who helped SEAL Team Six carry out the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

But more importantly, it gives us a private glimpse into the lives of those elite warriors, who do so much and ask so little in return. He says in the dedication:

My hope is one day a young man in junior high school will read it (No Easy Day) and become a SEAL, or at least live a life bigger than him. If that happens, the book is a success.

His words so beautifully illustrate what the SEALs symbolize: young men who are living a life bigger than themselves. They are trained to do what is required to get the job done. Do it quietly, with humility, and unemotionally. To set aside personal feelings, to stay alert to danger so that they can protect the lives of everyone on the mission, and the innocent.

He recounts how his upbringing in Alaska prepared him for his journey. How his parents at first didn't want him to put himself in harm's way and how he got his college degree first, but still had that burning desire, forged when he was a young teen, to become one of these elite men.

I enjoyed hearing stories of what the SEALs did to take their minds off the stress of waiting for orders to do dangerous things. The pranks they played on each other, and the close bond formed between brothers who would lay down their lives for each other without hesitation. Deadly serious, I've also read in other SEAL books about the special underwear with Superhero logos, or other cartoon characters they wear. Owen talks about playing fantasy football in the Afghani desert.

The author chronicles how he trained to become part of the elite Green Team, Seal Team Six, or DEVGRU.  He also describes how he almost didn't make the team. Only one out of a thousand regular Navy men is able to even try out for the teams. And of those who have completed two deployments, some are invited to try out for the Green Group, where you are on call almost 24/7, without the time offs and vacations with family. Hard on loved ones, but it's what is required to be a part of this special unit.

There are less than 2000 active SEALs currently. DEVGRU is the professional team to the varsity team of regular SEALs. They are responsible for the high profile “snatch and grabs”, the team who rescued Paul Schoon, the governor-general of Grenada, who was facing execution. They were responsible for capturing Manuel Noriega during the invasion of Panama, capturing the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and Bosnian war criminals, including Radislav Krstic, the Bosnian general who was later indicted for his role in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. They rescued Jessica Lynch and conducted the daring rescue at sea from Somali pirates. The little picture I've seen of a disheveled Saddam Hussein in handcuffs is posted on a bulletin board in a SEAL bar in San Diego and speaks volumes.

Like all things in life, everything is connected. He says this book was written because he decided to put his Trident away and return to civilian life this year. And his reasons are personal. He and the publisher originally wanted this book to be released on 9-11, in honor of the anniversary of that tragic event. But as he states in the book, this was not written from a particular political viewpoint.

We are all red, white and blue, in my opinion, and Mr. Owen makes this point very well. The color of our blood is red, though our opinions, political affiliation, background and skin color vary. As he says, you don't run to your death. A bullet doesn't know how to discriminate a rich kid from a poor one, a Democrat from a Republican. Their SEAL training just makes them “the guy who can get it done.”

I doubt this fine young man ever would do anything that would harm a fellow in the brotherhood of warriors. He's mentioned several times that if one wanted to look for military secrets, his is not the book to read. But, I'm not an expert. Others that are far more knowledgeable than I will have to weigh in on this.

No Easy Day reads like a good suspense novel, except we know in advance how the story ends. But, unlike most stories we read, what happens in the middle is what we didn't know about until now. I came away with a renewed respect for these men, and for the hard work that goes into the training to become a SEAL.

I ask myself every day if I would have the guts to ever do anything so brave.

So, what did I find was the most enjoyable aspect of this book?

It knocked 50 Shades from the #1 Spot.
It told the truth.
And there was the delicious absense of spin.
All this week we are talking about heroes. I have several award-winning bestselling authors visiting here this week, next week and the week after. Won't you come join in the conversation? There will be some great giveaways, and the chance to chat with your favorite authors who bring us those wonderful heroes.
Jennifer Kamptner   9-12-12
Marliss Melton        9-14-12
Elle James               9-17-12
Trish McCallan       9-18-12
Cathy Mann and Joanne Rock    9-21-12
Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog, a personal experience with 9-11.

Sharon Hamilton

Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.
Accidental SEAL   SEAL Encounter    all available through Amazon

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