About Me

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I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also https://jeffreydenning.wordpress.com.

December 23, 2014

Valor: Unsung Heroes

A really great guy and very skilled, award-winning 3-gun shooter, Scott McGregor, recently suggested that I reach out to a Marine Corps MARSOC veteran named Buck Doyle who runs Follow Through Consulting, a firearms and leadership training company.  

In the course of searching out Buck online, I found this great article on Forbes.com.  Buck says he was hesitant at first to share his stories about being in combat, but after researching the author, he felt the guy (Mark Greenblatt) had pure intentions. 

Hopefully I can get together with Buck soon. He seems like a terrific guy, and, who knows--we probably know some of the same guys other than the aforementioned shooter who recommended I link up with Buck in the first place.

The Forbes.com article describing the book is well worth the read.  Here it is:

Three Lessons WeCan Learn From Returning Vets: A Q&A With Valor Author Mark Greenblatt

What can we civilians learn from the acts of valor that you detail? 
 Three lessons come to mind.
1.Perseverance.  One of the heroes I profiled, an Army grunt named Steve Sanford, saw a buddy get shot by a sniper and ran into the sniper‘s fire to save his fallen comrade.  Steve gave the man CPR while the insurgent sniper continued shooting at them from, literally, a few feet away.  Multiple bullets pinged into Steve’s Kevlar vest.  In our interview, I asked Steve what he was thinking in that moment.  Steve’s answer was, “Yep, I’m being shot,” but that didn’t matter.  He kept performing CPR, desperately trying to save his buddy’s life.  “I had better things to do,” he said, “than worry about pieces of metal sticking out of my vest.” That is perseverance.

Dan Foster, another of the heroes profiled in Valor, was doing guard duty when his base came under attack from dozens of insurgents.  A huge truck bomb knocked Dan off his feet, but he regained his composure and fought back.  He, along with his buddy Nick, held off the assault and saved their unit’s lives.  Dan was injured in the fighting, but didn’t realize the extent of his injuries until he was back in the medical area and looked in the mirror.  He had lost more than a dozen teeth and substantial bone structure from his upper and lower jaws.  He had also lost hearing in one ear.   But – get this – Dan returned to the fight.  That too is perseverance.
So, whenever I’m ready to give up on some task – to throw in the towel because it’s too much of a pain – I actually think about Steve Sanford and Dan Foster.  If those guys persevered in those moments, how can I possibly give up when I face my first-world problems?
2. Loyalty.  Everyone of the heroes told me that what really motivated them was love for their brothers in arms.  They spoke of the special bond between people who serve together.  That bond is unlike anything I have ever seen.  They will do virtually anything to help each other, including sacrificing their own lives.  It’s inspiring to witness that level of dedication.

This sense of brotherhood was drilled into them from the beginning of their military service.  One man, a Marine named James Hassell, told me his drill sergeants would motivate them, not by warning that they would get killed, because “after a while, we didn’t really fear that.  What we feared was letting down our brothers.  We didn’t want to be the guy that gets one of your brothers killed.”

Buck Doyle, another Marine, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for trying to save another Marine, Sgt. Nick Walsh.  Buck dismissed his Bronze Star Medal, explaining, “The award for me is the brotherhood.  If you are accepted in that brotherhood, that’s the greatest award you can receive.  For me, my award is having Nick’s parents regard me as part of their family – that’s a huge award – hearing that Nick spoke of me the whole time to his parents, that he regarded me as a brother.  That is the eternal reward that no colonel can think about giving me, so I regard that responsibility and honor of serving with those guys as the award.”

3. Poise in the Face of Adversity:  Another hero profiled in Valor, Army Ranger Chris Choay, was in a firefight against insurgents hunkered down in a bunker in an Afghan valley.  Chris led his squad through machine-gun crossfire to get within 65 yards of the bunker.   The insurgents didn’t know Chris was there.  If they just looked to their left, Chris would have been a dead man.
Chris was preparing to eliminate the threat, when he realized that he was completely alone – his men had not heard him when he initiated the assault. Chris was also severely outgunned – the insurgents had three machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade.
But Chris kept going and he prepared to attack the insurgents by himself.
And then disaster struck: Chris’s rifle jammed.  “That,” Chris told me, “was the loneliest moment of my life.”

I don’t know about you, but I think I would have curled up in the fetal position and cried for mommy.  Or cursed loudly.
But not Chris.  He stayed calm.  He knelt down and fixed his rifle.  Then he stood up and proceeded to take out the enemy bunker by himself.
So when I’m about to lose my cool, I think about Chris Choay.  If Chris can stay poise in the face of such adversity, how can I fall apart when my Wi-Fi goes down, or when the line for my latte is too long, or when some idiot cuts me off in traffic?

What myths do you think exist about the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what, if anything, should we be doing to correct those myths?
A few unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes about our military veterans persist.  First is the caricature of the macho, rough-and-tumble guy who just likes to shoot things or blow things up.  I’ll admit that, when I first started this project, I expected the best parts of the book would be the bang-bang-shoot-‘em-up tales.  But the more I got to know the heroes as people, the more I realized their stories would be incomplete without getting into the backgrounds and their motivations – they are interesting, funny, smart individuals, with full lives.  With our all-volunteer military, few Americans know service members personally these days, so that meathead stereotype still exists.  One of my goals in writing Valor was to help bridge that gap.
Sadly, there is another caricature emerging, that of an on-edge person in the grips of post-traumatic stress.  I know that a sizeable number of veterans suffer when they return home, and we need to help them as much as possible.  More needs to be done to erase the stigma preventing veterans from seeking mental health treatment.  But I fear that this storyline has been overplayed by the media, such that every returning veteran is portrayed as a ticking time-bomb.  That’s just not accurate.  They are some of the smartest, most engaging, most capable, and highest-character people I’ve ever encountered.

A December quote for December 23rd

I have little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who had so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent.

—Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Number I, December 23, 1776

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in late 2014

We have to remember that when you come home from war, your battle is just beginning and it’s going to last the rest of your life, and someone has to be there to take care of you.
—Art Wilson, co-founder of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

Soldiers are injured and life goes on, except, life is never the same.  Whether you can see someone’s disability or not, the pain never leaves.
—Diane Musselmann, spouse of the late Kenneth Musselmann

It’s not what you’ve lost that counts, it’s what you do with what’s left… In a way, I’m special, I thought.  I’m a member of a unique group.  It could be the end of the world for me, or it could be the beginning of a whole new life.

—WWII veteran’s words inscribed in the wall at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial 

Washington's circular farewell letter to the Army

Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I cannot omit to mention the obligation this country is under, to that meritorious class of veteran non-commissioned officers and privates, who have been discharged for inability…nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their country

—George Washington’s farewell letter to the Army, June 8, 1783

November 25, 2014

Nez Perce Elder's thoughts on PTSD

Thanks to Tom Spooner and ElderHeart.org for sharing this. 

Below are the thoughts of Nez Perce Elder on PTSD: 

They said I would be changed in my body. I would move through the physical world in a different manner. I would hold myself in a different posture. I would have pains where there was no blood. I would react to sights, sounds, movements and touch in a crazy way, as though I were back in the war.

They said I would be wounded in my thoughts. I would forget how to trust and think that others were trying to harm me. I would see dangers in the kindness and concern of my relatives and others. Most of all, I would not be able to think in a reasonable manner, and it would seem that everyone else was crazy. They told me that it would appear to me that I was alone and lost even in the midst of the people, that there was no one else like me.

They warned me that it would be as though my emotions were locked up, and that I would be cold in my heart and not remember the ways of caring for others. While I might give soft meat or blankets to the elders or food to the children, I would be unable to feel the goodness of these actions. I would do these things out of habit and not from caring. They predicted that I would be ruled by dark anger and that I might do harm to others without plan or intention.

They knew that my spirit would be wounded.  They said I would be lonely and that I would find no comfort in family, friends, elders or spirits.  I would be cut off from both beauty and pain.  My dreams and visions would be dark and frightening.  My days and nights would be filled with searching and not finding.  I would be unable to find the connections between myself and the rest of creation.  I would look forward to an early death.  And, I would need cleansing and healing in all these things. 

Poem delivered at Gettysburg in 1869

Her once war-wasted arm,
Put forth to shield a sister land from harm,
Ere the last blood on her own blade had dried,
Shall still be stretched to succor and to guide,
Beyond our borers, answering each need,
With counsel and with deed ---
Along our Easter and our Western wave,
Still strong to smite, still beautiful to save.

-- American poet, Bayard Taylor

The link to my Guns.com posts


November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause....

...some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for and democracy is worth dying for because its the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. ...

Something else helped the men of D-day, the rock hard belief that Providence would have a great hand of what would unfold here--that God was an Ally in this great cause. 

And so the night before the invasion when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them, ‘Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we are about to do.'

Also that night, General Matthew Ridgeway, on his cot, listening for the promise that God made to Joshua: ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’ 

...Let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgeway listened: ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’ Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value and born by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. Thank you very much and God bless you all.

--Pres. Ronald Reagan Normandy Speech
President Reagan's Address at the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, D-day at Point-du-Hoc - 6/6/84.