Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations - Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired)

I picked up Sea Stories after reading and *loving* McRaven's first book -- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World.  You can read that review here, if you would like.

Summary:
Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden.

Sea Stories begins in 1960 at the American Officers' Club in France, where Allied officers and their wives gathered to have drinks and tell stories about their adventures during World War II -- the place where a young Bill McRaven learned the value of a god story.  Sea Stories is an unforgettable look back on one man's incredible life, from childhood days sneaking into high-security military sites to a day job of hunting terrorist and rescuing hostages.

Action-packed, inspiring, and full of thrilling stories from life in the special operation world, Sea Stories is a remarkable memoir from one of America's most accomplished leaders.

My Review:  Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations is a riveting account of Admiral William H. McRaven's experiences as the longest serving NAVY SEAL on active duty before his retirement.  Each chapter tells a specific story, beginning with a McRaven's youthful attempts at espionage, through his exhausting and brutal Navy SEAL training and his deployment on a wide array of battlefronts, to his service in various high-profile military positions in Washington D.C.  

Sea Stories is nothing short of wildly impressive.  It delves into some of the most highly-classified missions in recent U.S. History in a way that completely brought the stories to life and details the insane amount of planning, training, secrecy, and skill that are involved in these types of missions.  I felt like I was right in the thick of things as deposed tyrant Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a hole or Captain Richard Phillips was rescued from Somali pirates or a special forces operation led to the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Some of the chapters were incredibly intense while others were more moving than I expected, but all were threaded with encouragement and wisdom. For example, in the chapter entitled The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, McRaven talks about the rigors of SEAL training, stating, "Like many things in life success in BUD/S didn't always go to the strongest, fastest, or the smartest.  It went to the man who faltered, who failed, who stumbled, but who persevered, who got up and kept moving.  Always moving forward, one evolution at a time."  Obviously, that lesson can be applied to more than just SEAL training.

Throughout the book Admiral McRaven has many names: Mac, Bill, William, Raven.  Whatever you want to call him, the man tells a good story and delivered an fascinating page turner full of suspense, wisdom, humor, heartbreak, comradery, and unbelievable courage.  What's more, he also just seems like a good person with a rock-solid commitment to his family, country, beliefs, and the mission, whatever and wherever it may be.  Throughout his career, he sets an example of compassion, perseverance, humility, and devotion that we would all do well to follow.  

I want to recommend this book it to pretty much everyone I know, but I would have to do so with one caveat -- there is, on occasion, some rather colorful language.  Though McRaven rarely swears himself, he often directly quotes his cohorts and compatriots, which means some chapters feature more profanity than others. Personally, I chalked the language up as the common vernacular and mostly tried to ignore it.  If you can, I recommend you try to do the same.

Overall, Sea Stories offers a front row seat to some of the nations most highly classified special operations, but more than that, it allows the opportunity to see inside the heart of a good man, a Navy SEAL committed to serving his country and his fellow soldiers to the very best of his ability.  I was never bored even though I already knew the final outcome of several of the missions.  As I read, late into the night, I was uplifted in a way I didn't expect.  As with his previous book, my 'just one chapter' would turn into two, and two would turn into three, and before I knew it I'd read six chapters with minimal blinking, before forcing myself to retire.  Long story short, I highly recommend giving this one a go.

NOTE: Clearly the universe loves me, because I went online hoping to find more about Admiral McRaven and lo, and behold, another book released in April.  I will be picking up The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived at the earliest opportunity!  Look for my review, coming soon!

My Rating:  4.5 Stars  

For the Sensitive Reader:  Some profanity sprinkled throughout (more in certain chapters than others), some violence (not graphic).

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