Sep 05 2014

Wounded Warrior to Compete in London’s Invictus Games

Injured Marine Major Eric

Hoping to bring home the gold from the Invictus Games

Hoping to bring home the gold from the Invictus Games

Burkett will compete in London’s first Invictus Games, a competition for wounded warriors from all over the world, and the brainchild of Prince Harry, himself an Apache pilot. Even injured Iraqi and Afghan soldiers are invited to participate.Erin Burkett was injured when the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft he was flying in crashed Morocco in April of 2012, killing all but two aboard. He and his family have been living at Walter Reed Military hospital for the past two years. The games will take place Sept 10-14th, in London’s Olympic Stadium, where the father of four hopes to bring home the archery competition. Burkett used to hunt with a bow, and getting back into the sport has been key to his recovery. He has even inspired his four children to pursue archery. Burkett wears a prosthesis so that he can stand as he hates shooting from a wheelchair. “I’d rather stand but I mean it does get painful at times,” he states. Let’s all wish him luck as he heads to London this month for the Invictus Games. I can see these games becoming extremely popular worldwide, and I applaud Prince Harry for coming up with the idea. Will it air on American television, I wonder?

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Aug 27 2014

Stop Terrorist Recruitment at the Source

I’m dismayed by the recent news that a 33-year-old American citizen went to fight for the Syrian terrorist group, ISIS, the same group that murdered American journalist James Foley. Now Douglas McCain, who was born in Chicago and lived in San Diego, is dead, and his posthumous fame provides a sick example to other disenchanted, radically minded Americans. McCain was a convert to Islam, which he called “the best thing that ever happened to me.” At some point in his life, he roomed with another convert named Troy Kastigar, who was killed in 2009 while fighting for Al Qaeda, after posting a terrorist recruitment video. This is what radical groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda want. In fact, they are actively recruiting fighters here in America, with a focus on ex-cons who have converted to Islam. My second Taskforce book, THE GUARDIAN, addresses this national security problem. All across America, young, disillusioned citizens are being fooled into thinking that Allah wants them to join the jihadist movement and strike back against their own country. True Islam preaches love and tolerance for all. Yet our government is aware of around 300 or so Westerners currently participating within ISIS. How did this number get so high? Clearly we are not addressing issues of poverty and ignorance within our own borders. We are letting young people grow up with a mindset of violence. Many are gang members. Most, if not all of them, listen to hip hop that disseminates messages of revolt and revenge. America has the largest prison population of any nation in the world. And each year, an estimated 35-40,000  prisoners are converted to Islam, making it the fastest growing religion in the United States. In jails and in hip hop music, it is radical Islam that’s being taught—the kind Islam that drives a young man from Chicago to change his name to Slave of Allah and join the jihad against all Westerners. The only way to stop this horrifying trend from continuing is to reach into our poorest neighborhoods, bringing education, preaching tolerance, and providing young people opportunity and therefore hope. Without anger and resentment, radical Islam has nothing to feed on. Starve the beast and it will grow weak and die.

Young American fought with radical extremists in Syria and died.

Young American fought with radical extremists in Syria and died.

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Aug 14 2014

Navy SEAL walks onto Northwestern Football Team

Navy SEAL plays football for Northwestern University, IL

Navy SEAL plays football for Northwestern University, IL

Is there anything a SEAL can’t do? The only answer I can come up with is “give birth.” No SEAL has done that yet, but once women are permitted to try out for the Teams, starting in 2016, that could definitely happen.

Where regular people see limitations, a Navy SEAL sees challenges. Take Navy SEAL Tom Hruby, for example. Tom is a reservist SEAL instructor at Great Lakes Naval Station in northern Illinois, as well as being a husband and a father of three. He gets the urge to attend college, so he treks thirty miles to the south to Northwestern University, where he piles on a full course load and tries out for the football team. Walk-ons are rare enough in the land of college football, but Hruby, who is 32 years old, secures a position as a defensive end. (Easy day, as the SEALs would say.)

How does he do it all? The 6’3”, 230-lb. Hruby says, “Stick to what’s important, stick to what you know and just kind of have an attitude.” It’s this mention of an attitude that I find so intriguing. I believe he must be talking about SEAL confidence—the kind of certainty-in-oneself that comes from having survived the most rigorous military training on the planet, not to mention hair-raising missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Southeast Asia. Hruby’s coach, Pat Fitzgerald, calls Hruby “relentless, absolutely relentless, like you would suspect from a SEAL.” Well, yeah!

So, this is what we love about Navy SEALs—they can do anything, which makes them seem like superheroes. And everyone loves a superhero. However, this type of alpha male, the classic Navy SEAL, wants to do it all. I can imagine that if Hruby is that “relentless,” he might be a wee bit difficult to live with. Speaking of which, his wife and family are staying with her parents while he attends school. That must put a strain on all of them and cut down on the time he can spend with his family—something to keep in mind as we delve into the attributes of heroism. There is a trade-off that can’t be overstated.

If all men were superheroes like Hruby, there’d be a lot more lawns that needed mowing and dogs that needed walking, or women who’d have to take up the slack on the home front.

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Aug 08 2014

Military Dogs, A Bond of Brotherhood

The dog that inspires me

The dog that inspires me

There’s a pup in my house–a husky/blue-heeler mix–who sparked my imagination and led me to write Look Again, A novella featuring a wounded Navy SEAL veteran and the dog (and woman) who changed his life for the better.

Researching the use of therapy dogs taught me about dogs used in military service (See my last blog post–“Navy SEALs can be dogs, too”.) A reader pointed me to the following YouTube video highlighting the tremendous bond between the soldier and his dog. How heartbreaking to view photos of a canine companion lying next to a coffin or a headstone. And yet, how heartening to see soldiers sleeping with their dogs or gazing into their loyal companion’s eyes and sharing a special connection. Military dogs are everything we want our soldiers to be–fearless, tireless, unflagging, and utterly loyal. If this link doesn’t move you, nothing will!

You Tube Video: America’s Heroic Military Dogs

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Jul 12 2014

Dogs can be Navy SEALs, too

I love incorporating dogs into my stories, and my readers clearly enjoy the addition of a canine. My heroine in The Protector owns a golden-retriever/German Shepherd mix named Winston, who helps protect her from the bad guy. Milly, the black Labrador retriever in The Enforcer, went from a bomb-sniffing dog to a therapy dog for my heroine with PTSD. And recently, I’ve incorporated a service dog in my latest novella, “Look Again,” about an injured Navy SEAL. Readers can’t get enough of these dogs!

I write mainly about Navy SEAL heroes, and as luck would have it, dogs can be Navy SEALs, too. I’m not kidding! The only named member of the DEVGRU SEAL Team that killed Osama Bin Laden was Cairo, a Belgian Malinois—a breed of dog that resembles a compact German shepherd. Belgian Malinois dogs are “faithful, fearless and ferocious,” just like their human counterparts.

The Navy takes their dog warriors very seriously, fitting them with super-strong, flexible body armor and high-tech equipment that includes specially designed and fitted dog goggles, called “doggles,” complete with night-vision and infrared capability! These dog warriors are trained to do almost everything the SEALs do, with the obvious exception of underwater ops. They can parachute out of planes in tandem with their handlers or alone, if the jump is into water. One dog named Cara and his handler, Mike Forsythe, have set the world record for highest man-dog parachute deployment. They jumped from the same altitude as a transoceanic passenger jet, more than 30,100 feet up. Like their human counterparts, SEAL dogs are “highly trained, highly skilled, highly motivated special ops experts” NavySEAL3).

I haven’t incorporated a SEAL dog into any of my stories, yet, but I’m sure that’s in the works. My peer and fellow-author, J.M. Madden, touches on the bond between dog and a handler in her short story, “SEAL’s Lost Dream,” featured in the SEAL of my Dreams Anthology. The love relationship between a man and woman is essential to romance, but when stories are layered with that special bond between people and their dogs, that makes for a truly satisfying read, especially when the dog proves to be as valorous as the hero.  NavySEALdogs1 NavySEALdogs

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