A Sad Loss For the BookLocker Family – by Brian Whiddon, Managing Editor

A Sad Loss For the BookLocker Family – by Brian Whiddon, Managing Editor

“Alive Day” is currently optioned by Phoenix Pictures to become a blockbuster movie.

This week’s “New Releases From BookLocker” features two books that are not exactly new. But, they are exceptionally special to us. They come from an author that formed a very special bond with all of us here at BookLocker and WritersWeekly.

His pen name is Samuel Hill, but we just came to know him as “Chief.” (Chief is the common term used to address a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army.) Chief’s books were “fictional,” but based on a true story – his story.

The stories revolve around a “fictional” special ops soldier who was horribly wounded in a friendly fire incident, almost died, and was rescued. He was the only member of his team who survived. Paralyzed, he is released from the hospital, and becomes  homeless.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Army presents “evidence” that he killed members of his team himself, and puts him on trial. Still suffering from debilitating back and neck injuries, he’s wheeled into court to face trial.

We will never know just how much of the story reflects Chief’s reality. We do know that he had to get the manuscript reviewed by the Department of Defense, the CIA, and other government agencies to avoid violating security clearances, or getting into trouble for divulging military secrets. Despite becoming good friends with him, and even sharing several phone conversations, Chief never went into much detail about what unit he was actually in or what his exact job was. We just know that he was in “intelligence.”

Here’s what we did know about him:

Chief was indeed wheelchair bound. He was 100% disabled. He wound up the unintended target of a T.O.W. missile strike that left him in the desert completely incapacitated for six days. He told me that he had a “near death experience” out there. (Meaning, he died momentarily and came back.) He also died on the operating table, and had to be shocked back to life. His spine was a latticework of pins, plates and screws – some of which had actually broken, and had to be replaced. All told, he underwent 39 spinal reconstructions. He had a spinal stimulator implanted in his back. This is a device that has a battery pack and several tiny wires. The battery pack is implanted under the skin like a pacemaker. The wires are surgically implanted between the spinal cord and the vertebrae. It is meant to control pain.

A couple of years ago, his stimulator died. The company that made it had gone out of business. He had to have the old one surgically removed, and a new one put in. That alone is more than I can wrap my head around.

He did wind up homeless. When we got to know him, he lived in a house on a mountain in California. He would have to pack his wheelchair into his car, and drive to the very top of the mountain to get enough cellular signal for our phone calls.

I became very fond of Chief, as did Angela. As tragic as his story was, it was his accomplishments that made him larger than life to me. I still remember leaving the Army, and coming home shortly after my deployment to Somalia. I came back in one piece, having not suffered so much as a scratch. But, I found that relating to civilians was difficult. In fact, it was nearly impossible. I found myself irritated at people wandering around, oblivious to their surroundings. People stressed out over everything, making mountains out of the tiniest of inconveniences in life – never taking a moment to stop and realize just how quickly that life could be snuffed out. They never seemed to appreciate just being alive. I grew resentful, but moved on with my life, focusing on building a career and my own success.

Chief went through so much more, and came back to much worse than I ever did. He worked through his issues, and then looked outward. He spent his life helping other vets cope with PTSD and their own experiences. He was very focused on the suicide rate of veterans in this country. He started an organization he called Tier One: Tranquility Base to give veterans a place they could go, and work through their PTSD with other vets in a safe environment. Despite his own daily pain, and his own challenges, he maintained a drive to keep doing all he could for his fellow vets – to help them cope with the rest of their lives.

Chief wrote his books for those vets. All proceeds go to his Tier One foundation. Hollywood got involved and Chief landed a contract to have a movie made out of his books. That is still in development. Chief was excited about selling more books, and having the series succeed, so that he could grow Tier One, and help even more vets. That was his main mission in life.

Chief and I chatted a lot about military stuff, and the sad direction our country is heading in. Angela would chat with him about lots of stuff. He even had time to email back and forth with our son, Mason, answering the teenager’s questions with patience and understanding. Chief sent him glossy print-outs of all of his book covers, which Mason proudly has framed and hanging over his desk.

Chief always signed his emails with a phrase: “Five Meters – Even when it sucks.” In battle, sometimes things get so bad, so overwhelming, that all battle plans and strategies go out the window. At that point, all you can do is move forward, focusing on what is right smack in front of you. Eliminate that target, and deal with what is directly beyond it. No concern over where the finish line is. Forget what may be 100 yards up ahead. Just keep focusing on the next closest target, the next threat, the next challenge. Don’t worry about how you’re going to make it through, or IF you are going to make it. Just keep going as long as you can. That defines the man we knew as “Chief.”

Back around June of last year, Chief let us know that the doctors had found stage 4 cancer in multiple organs. Angela and I had our entire church praying for him. We each emailed back and forth with Chief, encouraging him as best we could. To be honest, I think the news hit us worse than it hit him. His tone was always strong and positive. He was always upbeat!

Sometime around November, Chief sent us one last email, letting us know it would be his last communication with us. I guess he knew he had one last big fight and the odds were against him, so he had to be completely focused. I sent him a couple more emails in the following months, with no reply. However, Mason wrote him one more time, and Chief took the time to write him back. You can’t ask for more class in a human being than that!

We recently found Chief’s obituary. He died on March 20. He was a Christian, (trust me, I checked with him) so I know he is with God, pain free, and walking in Heaven. When I look at our society today, seeing young people complaining, protesting, hating … I know the world lost a valuable soul. Chief served his country with honor. He went through a meat grinder, and was treated like garbage by the same country he selflessly sacrificed so much for. He had every reason to be scornful and angry. But, instead, he reached out to others, and helped them find their way back home from the battlefield.

Tier One: Tranquility Base is still in operation. Chief had a board of directors to take things over for him. The mission still goes on.

I would ask that you consider purchasing Six Days to Zeus: Alive Today and Six Days to Zeus, Please Don’t Call Me Hero. Also, please consider donating to Tier One: Tranquility Base. PTSD is a devastating condition and our veterans need all the help they can get. As Chief himself said, “The military trains people to go to war, but it doesn’t train them how to come home.”

Rest In Peace, Brother. We will miss you.

RELATED

Six Days to Zeus: Alive Day

Six Days to Zeus: Please Don’t Call Me Hero

Brian Whiddon is the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly.com and the Operations Manager at BookLocker.com. An Army vet and former police officer, Brian is the author of Blue Lives Matter: The Heart behind the Badge. He's an avid sailor, having lived and worked aboard his 36-foot sailboat, the “Floggin’ Molly” for 9 years after finding her abandoned in a boat yard and re-building her himself. Now, in northern Georgia, when not working on WritersWeekly and BookLocker, he divides his off-time between hiking, hunting, and farming.

 

 

 



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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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5 Responses to "A Sad Loss For the BookLocker Family – by Brian Whiddon, Managing Editor"

  1. Sylvia  May 9, 2024 at 8:06 pm

    As Pamela said, so amazing. I am in awe of people like Chief, who suffered so much and still kept on giving to others. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for your service.

  2. Kay Flowers  May 4, 2024 at 2:32 pm

    It’s an old cliche but Earth’s loss is Heaven’s gain. No more wheelchairs for Chief.

  3. Janie C  May 4, 2024 at 11:01 am

    What a beautiful heartfelt tribute. Thank you for sharing this and I will, in turn, do the same.

  4. Pamela Allegretto  May 4, 2024 at 9:13 am

    What an amazing individual. Thank you for sharing his story. We need more “chiefs” in this world.

  5. El McMeen  May 4, 2024 at 7:03 am

    TY for sharing so beautifully, Brian.