GUEST BLOG: We All Wanted to Be Heroes When We Were Young by Weston Ochse

We are kicking off our guest blogging series with a post by Weston Ochse. This is the first of a four part series documenting his journey with SEAL Team 666. If you haven’t read this book, make sure you do so before it’s in theaters!

Today’s post originally appeared in Soldier of Fortune Magazine 2012.1

Future Guest Blogs from Weston:

-Blog about SEAL Team 666 the movie
-Blog about PTSD and GRUNT LIFE
-Blog titled Keeping it unREAL: Realism in Apocalypse Weird

We All Wanted to Be Heroes When We Were Young

My Observations on the Writing of SEAL Team 666

By Weston Ochse © 2012

When I was a kid, every boy wanted to grow up and be a warrior. Some wanted to be soldiers, others marines, still others U.S. Navy SEALs. Some boys wanted to drive tanks, some wanted to fly jets, and others wanted to slay dragons. Regardless of whom they wanted to be, or whom they turned out to be, the notion of fighting for something greater than ourselves drove us through our childhoods. From games of cowboys and Indians to cops and robbers, to my personal favorite, pretending I was Sergeant Nick Fury, we as kids slayed invisible foes. Games like Capture the Flag and paintball became vicious battles in miniature, most often leaving adolescent warriors bloody and limping from the battlefield. But what really sent my heart soaring towards impossible heroic heights was reading war stories, sometimes long into the night, most often under the covers with a flashlight. 

I’m ofte51sA8on5YiLn asked why I wrote SEAL Team 666. My response is normally how could I not write it? After all, I lived and breathed and ate war and idolized the men who fought them all the while I was growing up. Hell, I eventually became one.

The first war story I remember reading was the book My Brother Sam is Dead. The tale of an unlikely Revolutionary War fighter, it taught me that even children fought in wars. I progressed through the usual military fiction, consuming in great quantities anything written by Bernard Cornwall and W.E.B. Griffon. I discovered Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and the warring armies of Tolkien. I fought in Vietnam with Joe Haldeman and Leonard B. Scott.  I fought in World War II with John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer and Alistair MacLean. I stared through the fields of Gettysburg with The Killer Angels.

Growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I had a special relationship with the Civil War. I’ve never seen a town with as many front yards or hill crests with monuments dedicated to this dead battalion or that decimated regiment. From Missionary Ridge to Lookout Mountain to Chickamauga, enough men died to seed war into the physical structure of the land. So when I decided to join the Army, it came as little surprise.

Movies and television were a tremendous influence, as well. The usual roll call of terrific movies included The Guns of Navarone, Kelly’s Heroes, They Were Expendable, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. The Boys of Company C and Top Gun were two of my favorites, the former because of its lesson on the imperfection of heroism, and the latter because of its lesson on the necessity of hubris, both hard lessons taught with blood and bone.

That said, I wanted so badly to be John Wayne. What kid didn’t? For a great many of us he was the icon of everything right and proper for being a ‘man.’ He had a way of speaking about complex topics in a very practical way.  In the movie In Harm’s Way, he said, “All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be someplace else.” I think up until that moment, I might have believed that real soldiers didn’t show fear. I have, of course, come to realize that it is in the knowing of that fear and the molding of it that makes us even better soldiers.

By this time I was a corporal in the Army and on my way to a twenty-year career. I’d been stationed in Korea and had returned to Fort Carson. Little did I know I’d soon be breathing the rare air of Fort Bragg’s Smoke Bomb Hill special operations community and traveling to more than fifty countries, and more often than not, with a copy of Soldier of Fortune on the top of my ruck as part of my reading material.  I was a full blown soldier. No need to pretend at war, I was doing it. I was in foreign lands, teaching indigs how to fire Ultimax 1000s, SA80s, bullpup versions of the AR15, and any number of weapons used to conduct or counter insurgencies. I didn’t realize it then, but I was living the life I’d wanted to live when I was five and firing finger pistols at invisible bad guys as I desperately tried to save the world and be a hero.

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When I sat down to write SEAL Team 666, I didn’t intentionally take pieces from these books and movies. I never sat down and planned to take this character from here, and that theme from there. Just as you who are reading this was influenced by everything you’ve ever read and seen, I was influenced in the same manner—military osmosis. Those books and movies were like a red, white and blue fuel that powered me through the writing process, often leaving me to write without knowing where I was going, but trusting in my instincts lead me through the story. There are hero and villain types you’ll recognize. The action is real. Using current combat techniques, tactics and procedures, I built a fighting modality that carries our SEALs through their battles.

But of course it’s not real. Instead of fighting Al Qaida, or Somali pirates, the members of SEAL Team 666 fight all manner of dark demonic creatures. They’ve been doing this, in one incarnation or the other, since the inception of America. Every president has had access to that special team of five men and a dog to fight against those things best kept secret. As quoted in the New York Times, when asked why I write dark fiction, I said, “I’m a dark fiction author. That’s the stuff I like to write and the kind of stuff I like to read, and I just thought to myself, what if there was a special SEAL team – an even more special SEAL team – that protected America against supernatural attack? And what if this was a secret? And even, what if some of the bad guys out there that we’re following aren’t really human?”weston

SEAL Team 666 is my eighth novel, all of which are dark fiction of one kind or another. But this is the first novel where I brought in my own history and knowledge of the military. One of the most important aspects of the novel was to be able to characterize the members of the team in the right way. They’re not just any group of guys. Much like the members of a Special Forces ODA form intense bonds, so do those of a SEAL team. I knew that for this novel to succeed that I had to create a believable group of guys and place them within a construct. They had to have that special cohesion we can all recognize but can’t identify. You know what I’m talking about. Band of Brothers, perhaps the greatest television miniseries of all time, did this perfectly. I have to admit that when I was writing about the team in SEAL Team 666, I thought of Band of Brothers, and hoped I could get close to the brotherly truths breathed into it by the writer and director.

I’m rather lucky. As a boy I wanted to be a soldier. As a young man I was a soldier. As a middle-aged man I was able to write a book about soldiers, in this case SEALs. There’s a responsibility inherent in the process. Not only is there an issue of trust between the reader and the author, but I owe an obligation to every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who preceded me, served concurrent to me, and will serve after me to write with that hallowed military spirit that first caused me as a child to lift my hand and go ”Bang.” When I was a child I couldn’t express the feelings that were going through me, but as an adult I was taught how to say them.

I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

That same spirit lives in the hearts of the SEALs in Team 666, just as it does in all of us.

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About Marissa Willey

Marissa Willey has been ranked a 12 on a scale of 1-10 in enthusiasm by friends, family members, and co-workers her whole life. She dreams of changing the world one act of kindness at a time. She also has a sarcastic sense of humor and some excellent dance moves.

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