Most people, these days, live their entire lives without ever pushing themselves to their limits and then beyond. What most people consider “beyond the limits” is Thom Shea’s comfort zone. You wouldn’t need many fingers to count the number of people who’ve completed BUD/S, competed in 750-mile races, and at one point, prepared a platoon to inflict as much damage as possible to Taliban bad guys, in anticipation of being overrun. Unbreakable: A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life, was written as a memoir for Shea’s family in case he didn’t survive his combat tours. Written as a request (order) from his “Spartan wife”, Stacy, he weaved together several themes that bring more than the average combat documentary or biography.
The combat action, which would be expected in a SEAL’s book, won’t disappoint. He details his missions with SEAL Team 7’s Bravo Platoon during their tour of Afghanistan in 2009. They are all gripping action stories which make the book a must-read if you love those types of books. I don’t want to give spoilers of the good parts, but several times, the book almost met the intent of becoming the memoirs of a veteran who didn’t make it back.
The book is not all combat action though. He does pass on life coaching to his children and readers. Central to this coaching is the concept of one’s “internal dialogue”, which is your inner voice which guides you through your day. It’s the voice you hear that decides what to have for lunch, or what to do today. Unlike the newspaper which lands on your porch in print and is final, Shea sort of puts thoughts into a word processor and edits them, removing any references to quitting, or any negative language that leads to failure. Ultimately, those words no longer enter your thoughts. If it gets him through BUD/S and 750-mile races, it certainly couldn’t hurt to try it at home!
Finally, maybe unexpected in a SEAL book, is the story of Stacy and the family. The book has a bit of Braveheart in it. The movie was great for men and women as it combined warring with axes and a love story. During his career, Thom’s marriage was as extreme as the rest of his life. Being gone for over 200 days a year, makes for a tough family life. Somehow, he found a “Spartan wife”, ready to marry a SEAL who is rarely home and who has 2 children. Stacy actually loves it. She is as mentally tough as he is physically. While Thom is out on missions and seconds tick off the clock, she never knows if any tick may be his last. She does not accept fear and encourages Thom to fearlessly do what he is there to do and let her worry about things back home. The book will give you a real sense of the stress military families are under during deployments.
Lastly, an unspoken theme in the book is fate. Shea never mentioned it, but I couldn’t help notice the miraculous aspects of his journey. In addition to the enemy trying to kill him on every mission, he faced dehydration, a helicopter near-mishap, IEDs, and a close encounter with a cliff, to name a few. But with all that, Bravo Platoon all survived the deployment. Then there’s Stacy .. Before meeting Thom, Stacy was living on the east coast, while Thom lived on the west. She took a business trip to San Diego. Fate took over and somehow Thom, in a chance encounter, meets the perfect SEAL (future) wife. Maybe it’s all random, in my opinion, after reading the book, I wonder if the Gods are watching over him and protecting him, just to see what the hell he does next?