From the Introduction
“How in the hell did I get here?” (June 2017)
That was the only question I was asking myself as I walked into a thirty-day drug and alcohol program in one of the lowest-rated Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals in the country.
One year prior, I was sitting inside the Superintendent’s Office at the United States Military Academy (West Point) with my Chief Operating Officer and mentor, Richard Bell, briefing Lieutenant General Bob Caslen on our company, AM300 Solutions.
I proudly shared how I created AM300 (and its technology) to ensure never another Prisoner of War again. I was continuing my service to our Nation after I was unexpectedly (and unwillingly) medically retired at the age of 31.
What I did not share was how AM300 allowed me to hide in plain sight from the trauma I had experienced, suffered (and continued at that point in time), and refused to acknowledge in any form, publicly or privately.
At 36 years old, I arguably had a resume some would be willing to die for (at this point I almost did and if radical action was not taken, I likely would). I had never missed a cut from any sports team growing up was never told “no” in anything, or at least refused to acknowledge it, and find a way through any means to get to “yes”.
I had achieved my childhood, college, and life goal. Becoming an Army Ranger and carrying on the legacy my family had started in the 1700s during the French and Indian War with Roger’s Rangers (made famous by Mel Gibson’s film and role in The Patriot).
Along with it, I received the highest honor I could have imagined.
Commanding 149 of those Rangers into combat to meet the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) face to face for a grueling three-year period starting in 2006.
That dream was brought back to reality with the death of 14 of those Rangers under my command and responsibility. During the same period, wounded personally multiple times, that would eventually lead to four reconstructive knee surgeries.
I was recognized for my service, (in large part more the efforts of the men I had the honor to lead), by being promoted two years early to the rank of Major at 29 years old. I was temporarily put back with smart kids to attend the Art of War Fellowship and the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) to earn a second graduate degree.
What followed was the dream assignment for an officer of my age — serving as the aide de camp of one of my heroes and a legend in the officer corps of the Army, Lieutenant General Robert Caslen (the incoming commander of Iraq).
I recall the night General Caslen invited my then spouse and me over to the Commanding General’s residence to offer me the job in 2011. I went home thinking to myself, “This is the reward for keeping my head down, never quitting, and never showing weakness to anyone.”
I also asked myself quietly and privately if this pace was sustainable...
The Phoenix Project chronicles the complexities of the mentality required by people to serve as Army Rangers (and other special operations) in combat. It also examines the hell many of them go to, and most never get out of. This is not a memoir or an instruction manual on how to live life; to the contrary, it is quite the opposite. This book is not about recovery, self-actualization, becoming a “Yogi”, or attempting to shame the reader into changing course (although it may lead the reader to an option to take a turn on their true path).
The only thing that is distinctive about this story perhaps, is what the author decided to do about it. More importantly with it; allowing himself to become Phoenix Project “X”. It required the initiation of a journey in life to go so deep and dark within one’s soul (perhaps past the point of suicide), to lead him and others back out, and be shown the true reason for escaping death so many times. This book is simply a journey; a journey no one who knew the author prior to 2017 would ever believe was capable of executing.
Welcome to The Phoenix Project