Verdict: 5 Stars
There is no shortage of reads–good, bad, and ugly–that offer readers either fictional stories in the military genre or completely honest, raw, non-fiction accounts of actual war. But Dan Sheehan‘s self-published title After Action offers readers something that not many well-known books present, which is an amazingly well-written open look at what happens when the bullets stop flying and a decorated soldier tries to come home to adjust to a new level of normal.
“It chronicles my combat experiences as a Marine helicopter pilot in Iraq in 2003 and 2004,” Sheehand explained in an interview with Good e-Reader, “then it delves into the challenges I faced when I came home in adjusting to normal life after combat. It wasn’t something I thought I would ever need to do. I found I was really well prepared for the technical and tactical aspects of going to combat, however I was basically unprepared for recognition of the human costs of doing so. It chronicles that journey of going to combat and then realizing the effect those years had on me.”
Sheehan didn’t start writing the book until five years after his second combat tour, wholly unaware that he needed some sort of outlet to process the feelings he had kept hidden from even himself about these events. When his younger brother was in a terrifying helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Sheehan was overcome with unspoken feelings about his own combat experience. He turned to writing to get some thoughts out on paper, explaining I could “keep them from bouncing around in my head if I gave them a place to live on paper.”
“Writing became a means to uncover what I was going through, even though I never intended to write anything about my military experiences. But in the aftermath of my brother’s crash, I realized that there was something going on in me and I needed to figure it out.”
Sheehan turned to CreateSpace to publish his book, following a brief look at the traditional publishing industry and quickly realizing that the model wasn’t right for his book. His decision was due in large part to the understanding that so many other veterans are undergoing the same process he experienced, and he felt the need to make this book available to those readers with a sense of immediacy. The response to his book has been overwhelmingly positive, with Sheehan hearing from other veterans in an ongoing way, people who thank him for putting a name to the feelings they, too, are experiencing.
“It’s an overlooked concept. You assume you’re 100% fine unless you have full-blown, incapacitating PTSD. There’s a whole middle ground of veterans who are dealing with the after effects of combat, consciously or unconsciously, and it’s impacting their lives.”
After Action is available now in print and for Kindle.