Vickroy: Wounded warrior’s memoir a lesson in strength, determination, personal growth
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy November 20, 2013 9:12PM
While undergoing a series of surgeries for facial reconstruction in Chicago, former Navy SEAL Lt. Jason Redman befriended several local firefighters and policemen who are members of the McCarthy Group. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 23, 2013 1:38PM
The word “hero” is tossed about loosely these days. Perhaps because there is comfort in hearing it, particularly during troubling times.
But if you want to establish a true, gritty, honest definition, you might want to pick up a copy of Jason Redman’s book, “The Trident — The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader.”
In it, Redman reflects on his incredible journey toward both physical recovery and emotional self-awareness. It is a journey rife with adventure, combat, mistakes, severe injury, remarkable recovery and valuable lessons learned.
Earlier this week, from his home in Virginia, Redman talked about the newly released memoir, as well as his upcoming trip to Chicago.
“I am excellent; I’m at my new 100 percent,” Redman said. “Reviews are coming in and they’re all positive. So far, it’s been pretty fantastic.”
Lt. Pat McCauley, a South Side Chicago firefighter, said, “The book really blows you away. He really bares his soul in it.”
With incredible honesty, Redman, 38, not only describes what it was like to be shot point-blank eight times, including in the face, during a 2007 battle near Fallujah, Iraq, he details the four-year recovery process during which he came to terms with the fact that he would not return to his beloved profession and, in the process, learned the true meaning of leadership.
Redman traveled to Chicago for many of his 37 surgeries. While a patient at St. Joseph Hospital, he was befriended by a band of Chicago firefighters and police officers who call themselves the McCarthy Group.
Organized by McCauley, the group is named for Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, a famous Chicago fireman and ambulance superintendent who received the Medal of Honor for Heroics in World War II.
Several New York City firefighters also belong to the McCarthy Group, which raises awareness and funds for wounded veterans. It was one of those members who notified McCauley that Redman was undergoing reconstructive facial surgery in Chicago.
“When I first met Jay, he was in a wheelchair and wearing a T-shirt that read ‘I was shot by a machine gun,’ ” McCauley said.
McCauley and Chicago firefighter Jimmy Gorman immediately took to Redman’s positive outlook, his sense of humor and his determination to recover.
“He’s a fighter,” Gorman said. “We watched his transition, from wanting to get back to the service to wrestling with the realization that he won’t be able to do that again.”
Gorman remembers one particularly tough time for Redman. He’d contracted an infection in his nose, which had to be rebuilt after the injury.
“He had a friend who had died of the same kind of infection the previous year,” Gorman said. “I knew it was weighing on him but he wouldn’t let it show.”
Redman had a brush with fame early on in his recovery after he hung a bright orange sign outside his room at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. It read: “Attention — To all those who enter here, if you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that Go Elsewhere.”
McCauley, Gorman and other members of the McCarthy Group opened up their homes to Redman and his wife, Erica, and their three children when they were in town. Gorman’s family went on vacation in Michigan with the Redmans.
Gorman plans to host a book-signing party at his home in the Mount Greenwood community when Redman comes to town in December for a speaking engagement.
“I spent almost three years flying back and forth to Chicago,” Redman said. “Those guys were great. They would visit me and bring me movies.”
Not only does Redman thank a large number of people in his book, he opens with the names of other Naval Special Warfare soldiers killed in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s important to acknowledge people,” he said. “To remember them and thank them.”
Redman says what is most revealing about his book is how he unabashedly describes his coming to terms with his youthful arrogance. The introspective journey eventually led him to a greater understanding of the true meaning of leadership.
“I wanted my book to be relatable. I’m not trying to look like a superhero,” Redman said. “I pulled no punches. I talk about some of the mistakes that almost ended my career. It was tough, not easy to revisit, but there are so many strong lessons there.
“I want people to understand how I went from thinking mostly about myself in my youth to being humble and thankful for everyone in my life today,” he said.
He also wants aspiring SEAL candidates to understand the importance of humility and teamwork in leadership.
“Ninety percent of being a SEAL is mental,” he said. “You have to have an ‘I will not quit’ mind-set.”
In addition to publishing “Trident” (William Morrow), with the help of writer John Bruning, Redman gives motivational speeches and runs his nonprofit, Wounded Wear, designed to provide clothing kits and clothing modifications to America’s wounded warriors.
In July 2010, Redman and three other wounded service members reached the summit of Mount Rainier in the state of Washington as a testament to wounded warriors that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome.
Redman has received many military decorations including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and Combat Action Ribbon.
“The Trident — The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader” is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iBooks and booksamillion.com. Books from orders placed at Redman’s website, jasonredmanww.com, will be signed by the author.