Jeremiah Workman's book Shadow of the Sword is officially out today. I got a review copy a few weeks back and plowed through it non-stop over a weekend. It is an odd feeling to read a book when you have heard all the stories in it first hand, but it held my attention and took me along for his rise, fall and re-rise. The subtitle of the book is "A Marine's Journey of War, Heroism and Redemption". Someone asked once why he needed redemption, well because he screwed his life up professionally, that's why. For a Marine who has been awarded the Navy Cross to get fired from Drill Instructor duty at Parris Island you have to really work at it.
Jeremiah did, and if he was unlucky this book could have been a tragedy that ended with him wrapping a rented Lamborghini around a telephone pole. But God smiled on him and he survived himself and his demons, and just last week he moved in to brand new house with his wife and young son. That is why this book is important, because he made it, both through the Hell of Fallujah and the Hell in his head. It takes a brave man to earn a Navy Cross, but perhaps even more brave to lay out the horrors that followed for all to see.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the normal reaction to the most abnormal situation that is combat. When Jeremiah came upon his dead comrades in Fallujah, he describes a switch flipping on and then just taking care of business. Going back into that house time and time again because his fellow Marines were in trouble and the bastards who hurt them needed to pay. But when he got back home he couldn't just flip a switch and become normal again. He couldn't make his head shut up, or get to sleep, or stop thinking about the buddies he lost.He couldn't act like everything was normal, because it sure wasn't. So he did what many do, he drank too much, he self-medicated and he took it out on everyone around him. He went on an epic bender that all too often ends at the morgue.
But it didn't and so we get to redemption. The single most difficult thing for a warrior to do is admit weakness. But the only way to get any help is to accept the truth and ask for it. When Jeremiah looked around at the wreckage he had made of his life, he did just that. His will to live was stronger than his pride and he started talking to a therapist and letting the professionals help. Even more difficult was facing his friends and fellow warriors and telling them that he had PTSD. I met him not long after he had begun doing just that and was speaking in public about both Fallujah and what happened after he came back. It has been cathartic for him to do that, but he also knows that there are plenty of others out there fighting their wars over and over in their heads and that his example may spur them to seek help.
Shadow of the Sword is a vivid example of the savagery of war, the bravery of men, the damage it does to body and mind, and the will to overcome. Jeremiah Workman survived two battles that could have taken his life, and this book shines a light on the struggle many are facing when they come home. Read it yourself and then send a copy to any warrior no matter how tough a facade they put up. They just might need to know it can happen to the baddest of the bad, and that's not a bad thing at all.