My husband wrote a book. To me, this just might be his greatest act of courage, and after all he's done in his life, that’s saying something. He didn’t want to write a book initially, “that’s not what we do,” he would tell me when I would encourage him to put his life down on paper. Although there are some incredible combat and military stories in All Secure and with good reason, he was in the military's most elite “Unit” and the things he did around the world are things that most people can’t begin to imagine doing - myself included, but this book had to be more than war stories, it needed to have the stuff that most warriors aren't sharing in their books, how the trauma of war impacts lives. And he did just that, he had the courage to put down on paper the things that no one wants to admit none the less write in a book.
At the time he decided to pull the trigger on writing a book we were taking more calls than I can count at the nonprofit we started in 2017, All Secure Foundation. Morning, day, night, and sometimes in the middle of the night, we were talking to combat veterans, active duty service members, and their family members who were struggling in silence. Those who felt completely alone in their experiences, their thoughts, and their nightmares. Those who were on the verge of stepping off the cliff or even after putting down the shovel the hole they dug seemed too insurmountable to get out of. Those who were looking for answers. And that was something we both knew well.
The process of reliving combat in great detail over and over again was difficult, it was emotional, it was trigger filled and a lot of pain seeped onto those pages. Some things he wrote about he hadn’t thought about or talked about in a long time. The process of writing this book ended up being extremely healing for him, actually for us both. I would encourage anyone who’s been through trauma to write and write often, even if you burn the pages after you write them. A sort of clarity comes from putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. You see patterns, you identify areas of growth and successes along with the things that still need to be addressed and dealt with. In fact, people who journal or write are more likely to heal quicker and obtain their goals. Writing is a good thing for the mind and the soul.
But in the end it wasn’t the war stories that he had the hardest time writing about, it was the aftermath of war that caused a lot of sleepless nights and fear of judgement. Sure, he was concerned about writing a book and how he might be viewed in his community, but he knew that criticism came with the territory and he accepted that. It still would sting when a few good friends and brothers he served with would text:
“So I hear you’re writing a book, what are you, a SEAL?”
He would respond, “do you know what it’s about?” which the response would be, “no”,
to which he would respond, “it’s about trauma and what war does to you and how to come back from dark places.” To which they would say, “well then I’ll support it, brother.”
He understood the reservations others had about him writing a book and he probably would have sent the same message when he was in. Tom has immense respect and love for the Unit and those who came before him, who served with him, and those who are continuing to carry the torch that keeps freedom burning bright. A big part of being courageous is being vulnerable with those you look up to, those you respect, and his palms were a bit sweaty when he dropped off the book for review at the Unit. The book was reviewed internally and was praised for its brutal honesty and necessity for war fighters and their families.
As a spouse, I was also afraid of how I would be judged and viewed after the book came out, there are some stories in "All Secure" that kept me up at nights too. Parts of my story of childhood trauma. Parts of our story together that would no doubt be judged. He wrote about our wedding night, one of the best days and worst nights of my life. Of our life together. As Tom and his co-author, Steve Jackson, wrote the details of that night, the details of which I hadn’t shared even with my closest friends and never shared with my family. I couldn’t imagine they’d understand or support my decision to stay. I chose to remain quiet about that night and pushed forward to help others get the help they needed. This book helped release a lot of the shame, the guilt, the embarrassment and has made us closer than we've ever been. We've grown from the darkness.
I hope that this book has the impact on others that we aimed for, one of resilience, overcoming insurmountable odds, never giving up, and that we all have the capacity to heal from whatever we are facing. To remember that in the darkest of times you alone are the one holding the match and can light your own way out of any tunnel.