WHO: James Hatch
and Christian D’Andrea
WHAT: TOUCHING THE DRAGON:
And Other Techniques for Surviving Life’s Wars
WHEN: Published by Knopf May 15, 2018
WHERE: The author lives in Virginia
WHY: “James 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.”
. . . . .
A CONVERSATION WITH JAMES HATCH
Q: What made you decide to write your story?
A: My experiences in close combat shaped my perspective. When I was wounded, I became an observer of the greatness of the American spirit. My buddies and complete strangers extended me their love and it helped me get through some exceptionally difficult times. I feel like my story will help others. Regardless of whether they served in the military or not. The way my crew took care of me should be an example to others. Christian D’Andrea, my co-author, is also one of my best friends and has lived these experiences with me as I progressed and digressed through them. His keen insight and intellectual potency make this story accessible to a wide audience. Touching the Dragon is mandatory if you want to overcome the biggest challenges in your life.
Q: What motivated you to enlist in the Army National Guard at age seventeen?
A: I wanted to be a part of a tight family. A crew that didn’t exist on a platform of platitudes. I also wanted to punish the enemies of our way of life.
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of your twenty-five years of military service, including your different roles and the different countries you served in?
A: I served on several US Navy Ships, including a Frigate and an Amphibious Assault Ship. I went through Naval Special Warfare Training twice because I quit the first time. I served on the US Navy Parachute Team and was fired from it. I served as a Military Freefall instructor and served in several special operations units. Some of the countries I served in were Colombia, Venezuela, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q: Your military career ended on a mission to rescue Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, during which you were badly injured. What were those first few weeks after that mission like for you?
A: I was devastated, but I was getting helped and fixed and people were very, very kind to me.
Q: You mention that your recovery process went well beyond those first few weeks. What were the key factors in your recovery?
A: I was useless. I felt I no longer had anything to offer. I was a fraud. I wanted everyone to think I was “good to go” but inside I was hating myself for my failures and for causing people to have to risk their lives to save mine. I had to face the hypocrisies I’d created in my criticism of others who’d been in my shoes. It took the strength of my wife and my crew to help push me to the point where I could get help. Their hard work and selfless love made it impossible to believe I no longer had anything to offer.
Q: What is the meaning behind the title, Touching the Dragon?
A: “Touching the Dragon” was what I called the process I went through with my mental health professionals. They guided me safely through destroying the “coffin of condemnation” I’d built around myself. It was not a good time. If you don’t confront your dragons, they will kill you.
Q: For those struggling, whether coming back from war or recovering from another life challenge, what would your advice be to them?
A: My advice would be to get the booze and drugs out of your system. You cannot address your problems or even begin to “Touch the Dragon” until you have a clear mind. Then, find someone who you trust who can help you get the proper guidance on how to overcome the things you cannot negotiate on an island. The things that trigger your self-destructive actions. I would also add that we all need to look around to see others who might be struggling, like my crew did with me, and force them to confront the realities that they have to deal with to get back to being an asset.
Q: You write a lot about your passion for dogs – both while you were in the military and afterwards. Can you tell us a little bit about your dog Spike, and why he is the namesake of your foundation, Spike’s K9 Fund?
A: I have always loved dogs. Spike was the first working dog I handled. We did many missions together and he saved my life on several occasions. I failed to protect him and he was killed. That memory motivates me. He had incredible drive and spirit. I wish I had half of his moxy. I want to emulate it. He is the impetus for the mission of my new life. I want to make sure that any time a K9 works for our nation or our communities, he or she is properly equipped and cared for.
Spike’s K9 Fund has provided assistance with medical care, heat alarms for police vehicles, and bullet-proof vests for K9’s involved in violent work. We’ve also provided avalanche vests for rescue K9’s that work at ski-resorts, GPS tracking devices, work harnesses and communications equipment for Search and Rescue K9 teams. Additionally, we’ve helped with eye-protection and training equipment for local law enforcement K9 teams as well as military and federal law enforcement K9 teams.
Q: What do you hope that readers will take away from your story?
A: I hope it motivates people to rise to the occasion when they or someone near them is troubled. I hope the readers use the example of the Fly Fisherman and the Mechanic to guide them when they are uncomfortable addressing mental health issues. I hope we replace the word “stigma” with “cowardly” and “resilience” with “courage” and quit trying to make an industry out of something as simple as loving one-another and stepping in to help even when it’s tough.
Knopf. With 12 illustrations.
315 pages. $28.95 ISBN 978-0-451-49468-9
To interview the author, contact:
Katie Schoder | 212-572-2103 | firstname.lastname@example.org