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In Touching the Dragon, James Hatch, naval special warfare operator, expert commando, tactical master in deadly operations, 24 years in service to his country (he enlisted in the Army National Guard at age 17), writes of his years of military service, from joining the navy at 18, becoming a SEAL, to his joining the Naval Special Warfare Development group ("If I died in a gunfight, it would be doing something I loved"). He writes of the harrowing secret missions (Iraq, Bosnia, Africa) and of the fateful final mission (Afghanistan) that left him badly shot (a bullet exploding through his femur and out the back of his leg) as Hatch and his SEAL team crew were attempting to rescue a rogue soldier - Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his post, was captured by Al Qaida and Taliban militants, and was set to be smuggled to a part of the world where Americans could never reach him.
Hatch writes of the horrific wound to his leg; of having no choice but to end his military career; of coming home to the country he'd spent his life defending; of the ordeal of getting well physically (18 surgeries, 12 months of recovery, learning to walk again); of having to find out who he was as a man apart from the chaotic world of special operations missions; of days and months of despair, alcoholism, the pull toward suicide; and of finally, through love of family, friends, soldiers, and his specially trained military dogs, touching the dragon, of going through the fear of feeling unfit for society, of finding a purpose and a way back to life.
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By Diana on 06-02-18
Rare Honesty - Raw and Well Written
James Hatch, in sharing his story, has given us a gift. He stripped away the ever present emotional body armor most veterans wear to show us the vulnerable human inside. I won't even try to give a synopsis because there is just too much. His word choice and selection of detail elevates the reader to a place of understanding. As a part of the "non-military" audience, I didn't feel lost in overbearing military jargon. Instead, it was as if the author takes the reader by the hand and teaches us to see his world from the inside out. He efficiently builds characters through the use of nicknames. Usually, this treatment runs the risk of developing flat or stagnant characters. Because of the first person narrative, as the story unfolds, the reader understands that the host of characters undergo dynamic changes together, because that is the only way it can happen. No one walked away unchanged from these events. His rhythm in the telling is spot on. He took me on a roller coaster of emotions and I found myself crying and cheering, feeling despair and then hope. He alludes to books and philosophical concepts in a way that adds to the meaning for those who are familiar with them, yet doesn't detract for those who are unfamiliar with them. This added scaffold of meaning makes the book equally accessible to a wide audience. His message is important and so needed in our culture. I'm glad that I listened to the book first because I think hearing it added to the immediacy of the story and gave power to his truth.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By BRITTNEY HAMILTON on 08-08-18
life lessons for us all!
This deeply personal story shows the struggles and triumphs of one Veteran but his lessons can be applied to anyone. His raw honesty is refreshing and his story could make a difference for so many. Highly recommend.