Mark Lee Greenblatt, family man and full-time lawyer, never expected to write a book. As a man with no military experience, he especially never expected to write a book on modern-day war heroes.
But after attending events throughout the years at the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, Greenblatt became intrigued by the stories of young men and women who served their country. He wondered what inspired them to return for repeat tours, and why their brave stories of valor were not more well-known. It was in asking these questions that led to the creation of “Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front,” and his discovery of the warrior ethos.
Chris Kyle, the first hero Greenblatt interviewed for “Valor” is “a Navy SEAL who singlehandedly liberated a group of Marines trapped in a house in Fallujah, Iraq, and dragged one injured Marine 50 yards down a dusty alley to safety as insurgents chased them.”
Greenblatt conducted a total of eight hours of interviews with Kyle while he was deployed, and described the experience:
He was just saying things that were remarkably personal. Sharing real insight from his perspective what was going on. And it was exactly what I was looking for. I remember thinking to myself, as he was talking … this can happen. He’s giving me the insights that I can make into a compelling story. Beyond just the linear combat line. Combat is exciting, you can write about that, but there’s a level deeper of what’s going on in his mind at the time.
Greenblatt’s book chronicles the stories of nine brave war heroes. It was written and published over the period of six years. It is a narrative framed by the warrior ethos: “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
Featured in the book is Steve Sanford, “a former Army corporal with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.” He received a Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest medal in the U.S. military) for his service in Iraq in 2005.
Now a retired civilian, Sanford says, “The warrior ethos still applies to everything; whatever your mission is. My mission right now is to be a father and husband. My job is to raise my son, to the best of my ability.”
He adds, “The biggest theme in the book I recognized was camaraderie. The Army is like one big family, which always reminds me that I’m not alone in this.”
Buck Doyle, a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, “stood in a sniper’s direct line of fire in order to help a close friend (Sgt. Nick Walsh) who had just been hit. As he tried to drag Sgt. Walsh to safety behind a nearby Humvee, Buck endured multiple gunshots from the sniper, including shots to his arm and leg. Despite the injuries and blood loss, Buck remained in control and directed his fellow Marines as they evacuated him and Sgt. Walsh to the combat hospital.”
Doyle describes being chosen for the book:
It was very weird for someone to associate the word hero with me. I really don’t talk about what happened out loud, so that was a challenge. When I did, it helped. It helped put into perspective why I chose the profession that I did.
The guys do repetitive deployment because of the brotherhood. They don’t want to be away from their buddies. It’s a ‘brotherly love.’ I don’t think a lot of people understand the bond that the war-fighters have after combat tours.
The master sergeant, now a retired civilian, says, “I found my eternal battle buddy in my wife, and that camaraderie and love with my family. We do a lot of bonding through camping and working out together, to build that ethos.”
“Valor” was released earlier this month. Greenblatt has already donated to Veterans First and Disabled American Veterans, and plans to donate some of the proceeds of the book to more groups in the future.
Doyle says, “I hope the book inspires appreciation for the men and women who’ve been in service for years. All the stories in the book show a common theme of camaraderie, and I think that’s why they go back.”