Touching the Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life's Wars (Hardcover)
From former special ops Navy SEAL senior chief; master naval parachutist (four Bronze Stars with Valor, Navy and Marine Corps Medal recipient, etc.); fighter in 150 missions (Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Africa); expert military dog trainer and handler whose SEAL dogs were partners and medal winners--a fierce, moving tale of a return from hell, being badly wounded on a special ops mission that ended his two-decades-long military career, his searing recovery, and the struggle to live life off the speeding train of war.
In Touching the Dragon, James Hatch, Naval Special Warfare Operator, expert commando, tactical master in deadly operations, twenty-four years in service to his country (he enlisted in the Army National Guard at age seventeen), writes of his years of military service, from joining the Navy at eighteen, becoming a SEAL, to his joining the Naval Special Warfare Development group ("If I died in a gunfight, it would be doing something I loved"). He writes of the harrowing secret missions (Iraq, Bosnia, Africa); and of the fateful final mission (Afghanistan), that left him badly shot (a bullet exploding through his femur and out the back of his leg) as Hatch and his SEAL team crew were attempting to rescue a rogue soldier--Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his post, was captured by Al Qaida and Taliban militants, and was set to be smuggled to a part of the world where Americans could never reach him.
Hatch writes of the horrific wound to his leg; of having no choice but to end his military career; of coming home to the country he'd spent his life defending; of the ordeal of getting well physically (eighteen surgeries; twelve months of recovery; learning to walk again); of having to find out who he was as a man apart from the chaotic world of special operations missions; of days and months of despair, alcoholism, the pull toward suicide; and of finally, through love of family, friends, soldiers, and his specially trained military dogs, touching the dragon, of going through the fear of feeling unfit for society, of finding a purpose and a way back to life.
About the Author
JAMES HATCH is a retired member of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He is the founder of Spike's K9 Fund as a way to pay back the debt he owes to working K9s. He lives in Virginia. CHRISTIAN D'ANDREA grew up in Minnesota. He graduated from Harvard and Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a documentary filmmaker and writer. He lives in Virginia.
Acclaim for James Hatch's Touching the Dragon
"Hatch spent nearly 25 years in the military, mostly with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or SEAL Team Six. Hatch had to deal with his guilt, pain, and the emotional damage from years of fighting. He refers to cognitive behavioral therapy as 'Touching the Dragon'; a reminder that he would not get burned by reliving the brutal memories. In the vein of many recent memoirs about survival after combat, this important account will touch readers and likely help other veterans learn how to live after war."--Library Journal (starred review)
"Jimmy Hatch has managed to write a love story out of a war story. The love he has found for those he protected, those he fought with, the dogs he depended on. And finally he found a way to love himself."--Kenny Mayne, ESPN anchor; host, Kenny Mayne's Wider World of Sports
"This book touched me like no other personal account of battle I've read. Though a special operator who saw more engagements than most, Jimmy Hatch offers no boast or bravado. Instead he describes his unique experiences--and the wars that have shaped this generation of fighting men and women--with provocative insight, calm stoicism, and thoughtful but frustrated understanding. But it is how he has taken those experiences and applied them to his post-trauma life that makes this comparable to Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier. An exceptional read."--Mark Hertling, LTG, US Army, retired
"Jimmy Hatch is heroic, not just for what he has done on the battlefield, but for breaking the silence surrounding the battles many service members face when they return home. He is a warrior who read Neruda and Epictetus by chemlite on blacked out helicopters on his way back from secret nighttime missions in faraway lands. He is a writer whose descriptions of the 'clean, shining edges of time' he experienced on the battlefield haunt me. He is a survivor and though some of his wounds are visible, his deepest wounds, and his greatest strengths, are only revealed in the pages of Touching the Dragon. There are plenty of books full of daring wartime exploits, but I haven't come across any book that reveals with such honesty and openness, the 'second war' that Jimmy and other special operators must fight when they come back to a society that seems so alien to them, a society completely divorced from the purity of combat."--Anderson Cooper