Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Our youngest son Josh works in L.A. in the medical field, and over the past year or so he's become friends with a former Green Beret and Special Forces Medic who works in the same hospital. Rob shared some stories from his days in the military, and told Josh he was actually in the process of getting his adventures published. Josh connected us and I offered to read Rob's rough manuscript. I'm grateful and changed by the privilege.

Most Americans are blessed to be completely insulated from war. News reports of daily operations affect us less than a video game playing in the next room, and yet that very comfort and complacency is purchased for us by people who stand on invisible lines, far removed from home and family, placing life and limb in extreme peril in the most dangerous places on earth. A few of these soldiers have given the extra measure to become the most highly trained and specialized peace-keepers on the earth. And if you think the term peace-keeper seems improperly applied to a warrior, read on and hear what a Special Forces soldier will tell you about his dream of peace.

Rob's book is titled, "Love Me When I'm Gone." It's not a literary read. While it's smartly-written, it was not composed by a trained writer. It was written by a Special Forces soldier, in soldier speak, about a soldier's life. It is a boots-on-the-ground Special Forces soldier's story, but in truth, it's written to tell every soldier's story, and the story of families torn apart for months and years, and forever sometimes. It's a story every American needs to read.

I gave this book 5-stars in my reviews because it's the most important book I read in 2012. It left me feeling humble and guilty for being so blessed and doing so little to honor those who keep my life so peaceful. It changed me. It will change you too.

Rob agreed to an interview. I tried to pose some questions that would help readers understand the heart of these bigger-then-life warriors. They are fathers, and husbands, sons and brothers. They get lonely and learn to shut their feels off, attuning their loyalty to their brothers on the line. They do all this for you, and for me. I hope you enjoy the interview. My review of "Love Me When I'm Gone," follows in the next post, including links for purchase.  Laurie

Thanks for doing this interview, Rob. As you know, America is fascinated by our Special Forces soldiers. I loved the glimpse you provide readers into their exclusive brotherhood. I have to say, I had already read your book when the attack on Benghazi went down, and I felt such an agonizing connection to those Special Forces guys who waited for backup that never arrived. Love Me When I’m Gone drives home the loyalty SF soldiers have for one another. It’s not a motto. It’s in your spiritual DNA. Can you speak to readers a little about that loyalty? What went through your mind when you heard about Benghazi?      
That's the best opening question I've ever seen, because you touch on a very important issue that is absolutely integral to understanding the culture of Special Forces and Special Operations.  There are quite a few other books about Special Forces and Special Ops guys on the bookshelves right now that are written by embedded journalists or ghost writers, and it seems as if people are seeing right through them; you can have complete access to SF guys, live, eat and sleep with them, but being an outsider you will never capture the mentality, drive, and spirit of the brotherhood.  As I say in "Love Me When I'm Gone," Green Berets aren't friends, we are brothers.  The men from ODA 022 will always be my brothers, and as long as I have breath in my body, I will take a bullet or do anything in my power to help any of them in need.  The Benghazi event hit very close to home, not only because we lost some of our SEAL brothers, but also because my old unit was called as a reaction force, and was the one staged in Sicily but told to stand down. 
I especially loved reading about your training. You wrote that Special Forces soldiers become the best by doing the basics over and over until it’s muscle memory. I know there’s a lot more that separates Special Forces soldiers from the rest. Describe the selection process, what you went through to be selected.                                                                                             
That is one of the very important aspects of Special Forces that require us to stay at the top of our game; people concentrate on Selection, but the truth of the matter is you are being evaluated every day of your SF career.  I write about Bee-Sting competitions in "Love Me When I'm Gone," but the real fact of the matter is that every day on a team is like Selection.  There is a term in Special Forces of "finding your rucksack in the hall," which is the SF way of kicking someone off of a team for losing their step; you literally walk up to the team room one morning and find all of your stuff in the hallway, meaning you're no longer welcome!    
To answer your question, Selection is an amazing experience, and it truly does separate the men from the boys.  Most soldiers in the Army are taught to follow orders, and most soldiers' careers are spent taking orders from someone else, telling them exactly what to do.  Besides being the most physically demanding month of your life, Selection is also geared to separate those who can operate on their own, completely independently, with nothing more than a mission.  As discussed in the book, an ODA (team of Green Berets) is usually just given a vague end state, and it's up to us to figure out the what, when, where, why and how's to accomplish the mission, rather than having all of that handed to us from higher.  To find the guys who are best at doing that, Selection pushes you to the very limits of your physical and psychological being, and then gives you a very complicated problem to solve in the state that a Green Beret normally operates: tired, hungry, and on your own with little or no support.
I don’t think most civilians appreciate the toll the families pay when their loved ones serve in the military. Love Me When I’m Gone alludes to that. What was hardest on Cindy, and how much does worrying about loved ones affect a soldier's preparation for deployment?                                                                                                                     
 The hardest thing for Cindy, and any Special Forces family I think, is not knowing. By the very nature of our job most of what we do is classified, and the places we go we're normally far off the beaten path.  Because I was in Germany and Cindy was in Los Angeles, "Love Me When I'm Gone" actually started as a collection of journals that I kept for her; most of what we were doing I couldn't really tell her about, both for security and her sanity, so I just kept little notes of the time lines.  When we found out that we were going to have our son, I decided to turn them into a better format for my son and the sons of my teammates, and as I started showing them to the guys to make sure all of my events and time lines were correct, they convinced me to turn it into a book.                                  
The worrying does get to you, but to be a soldier in the military these days you have to become an expert at coping and isolating yourself from your emotions; whether it be 6, 8, 12 or 18 months, spending that much time away from your loved ones, in a combat zone under constant threat is just too much to handle if you can't learn to isolate those emotions and separate yourself.  The biggest problem is that you turn yourself into a stone, trying not to let emotions in or out, and then when you get home, it's very difficult to go back to normal, which is where most of the problems start.
I can't even imagine how hard that transition must be for some soldiers and their families. I loved the humanitarian work your medical team provided in Africa. You wrote that helping a man’s family was more effective at winning his loyalty than military might. Can you elaborate on any experiences you had with that?                                                                   
It really is the basis of Special Forces, and why they're so selective with who makes it to a team.  As an 18D (Special Forces Medic), we would have days in Iraq or Afghanistan that would start off doing a MEDCAP during the day, seeing patients and helping people from sunup to sundown, and then go on a mission that night hunting bad guys.  There is a reason that Green Berets are the experts at COIN (Counter-Insurgency), and that's because we understand that simple fact: if your only focus is killing bad guys, you will lose because they always have the home-field advantage and can recruit more.    If you really get the big picture, and focus on taking care of the people and showing them that we're not there as occupiers, we're not evil and truly have human emotions, you win their "hearts and minds" and make the bad guys' recruiting job a whole lot harder.  The exact quote from "Love Me When I'm Gone" is: "if you take care of a man, he will fight for you; take care of his family, and he will die for you."  It's a very true statement I can tell you from experience, and why I support Veteran's charities like USA Cares (for which I'm a national spokesman) and The Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Does each branch of service have its own Special Forces units? What’s the primary difference within each since it seems you Green Berets did it all from mountain fighting to water operations?                                                                                                                              
This is another point that I really tried to get across in "Love Me When I'm Gone;" we're over a decade in to the Global War on Terror and most people have seen or read Special Ops movies, TV shows or books, but don't understand the basic differences between the different units.  In a nutshell, any time you hear the term "Special Forces," it is referring directly to Green Berets (we wear a tab on our uniforms which actually says Special Forces).  The other units are Special Operations, and there are a few main ones which are well known (Army Rangers, Air Force PJ's and combat controllers, Navy SEAL's, Marine Special Operations (formerly Recon and Force Recon).  There are of course others, which don't like to be talked about, so I'll leave them out here.                
My favorite term about a Green Beret's job was from an instructor I had in the Q-course (Special Forces Qualification Course), and he used to say that a Green Beret has to be the "jack of all trades, master of none."  There are a lot of jobs and missions in Special Forces, but our main purpose is Unconventional Warfare (UW), also known as Guerilla Warfare.  It's another point I try to teach in the book (in the Scotland chapter), that life in Special Forces is a whirlwind, especially in my old unit, 1/10 SFG(A).                                
You can be in Germany training one week, Africa hunting rebels the next, Iraq or Afghanistan the next month, and then another African country training rebels to overthrow their dictator the next.  We do Direct Action (kicking down doors and combat), Foreign Internal Defense (training soldiers in the Army of other countries how to fight), Special Reconnaissance, Counter-terrorism, Counter proliferation, hostage rescue, Humanitarian Operations (like the MEDCAP's in Africa), and Information/Intelligence operations.  Basically, anything, anytime, anyplace.
Do you still feel the urge to head off to battle? Does that ever leave?   
Every day; you know it's funny, people usually think of us as warmongers, but I think a Green Beret who's lost a dozen buddies and has seen enough war for many lifetimes probably wants peace more than anyone else.  The difference is that we're realists, and understand that the world is a dangerous place, full of bad people, and we'd rather put ourselves in harms way to protect those that we love instead of watching someone else do it.  For me, it's more that I know my brothers are out there in harms way, and it's not the war that I miss, but wanting to be there to watch their back.
I have to say how grateful I am that your guys are on our side. We have no idea how many threats you and others like you have thwarted, do we?  

In Special Forces we work very closely with the various intelligence agencies, and I can't remember where, but one of the spooks we were dealing with gave me a great quote...."every day that goes by and you don't hear of a terrorist attack on American soil means that we're doing a great job."  People either don't know or don't want to believe just how many crazies out there are trying to do us harm, but I can tell you from my experience, there are many more than most would think.  My favorite Special Forces quote, taught to all Green Beret's in the Q-course is: "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
What do you miss most since leaving the military?                                                                           
My brothers; we still keep in touch daily, and they were the sword bearers and groomsmen in my wedding, but I miss being with those guys every day.
Love Me When I’M Gone is biographical, but you did a terrific job of setting it up as the prequel to an ongoing series. How much, if any, of Love Me When I’M Gone was fiction, and what will Rob be doing in the sequel?                                                                                         
"Love Me When I'm Gone" was 100% non-fiction...and thankfully I did it the right way and got approval from the Pentagon beforehand, so I can say that!  The original version was twice as long (around 250,000 words), but there were a lot of things that I just couldn't put into a non-fiction book.....and most of them are going into the fiction books.  The very last part of this book is true, and I was asked to go to an "organization" after I left the Army.                                                                                                                         
In reality, I talked to Cindy, and she said that she knew it was something I had always wanted to do, but she couldn't be married to a guy that would be gone more than I was in SF, in much more dangerous situations and with even less communication from where I would be going.  I'm currently working on 3 different series of books (I have a dozen already outlined, 3 in various stages of completion), but the one that follows "Love Me When I'm Gone" is my life had I made the other choice and gone "over to the dark side."
Thanks so very much, Rob, for your dedicated service to the country, and for allowing civilians to get a glimpse into this world. We owe all our soldiers an invaluable debt, and your book reminds us of that. Many thanks to Cindy and all the military spouses who serve America by supporting you at home.                                                                                             
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain more about it here and share it with your readers and fans! I really enjoyed my time in SF, met some of the greatest men this world will ever see, and had some experiences that I will always be thankful for.                    

If your readers would like to help, as I said earlier I'm a national spokesman for the USA Cares organization, which raises money for vets and active duty soldiers in need.  You can visit my website at  to find out more about this amazing organization, what they do to help, and how you can show your support.  Thank you!


  1. This is such an intelligent interview with well-posed questions and informative and heartfelt answers. I am even more grateful for the amazing people who protect us and their families who sacrifice so much after reading this. I am excited to read this book! Thanks for posting this, Laurie!

  2. Wow. Sounds like quite the story. Thanks for the heads up.