Nina, you've won! Email me with your address, Bella! firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for joining Suz, Bellas, and special thanks to all Suz's friends who stopped by today. Please come back often to chat more!
Every once in a while we get to do something good, have some fun, and e-meet someone very special. When SB's publisher sent an email about this cool project of hers to help a SEAL, I wanted to jump on board, especially cause I've been blessed with 18 years of healthy life since I received a kidney transplant.
So, please, read on, and enjoy one of the best GuestBlogs ever...
I've got a lot of ground I want to cover in this blog -- I have some important info to share with you about a Navy SEAL named Justin who needs our help.
So let's get introductions out of the way.
I'm Suzanne Brockmann, and I write military romantic suspense for Ballantine Books. My latest hardcover release, INTO THE STORM, in book stores right now, is my nineteenth book with a Navy SEAL hero.
Yeah, you read that right. Nineteen.
And no, I will never tire of writing about Navy SEALs.
Two words: Duct tape.
See, here's the deal: every SEAL -- officer and enlisted alike -- has made it through a hellish program called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training.
BUD/S is notorious for chewing up the biggest, toughest, strongest guys and spitting them out. In fact, BUD/S classes often have a huge drop-out rate -- most of the SEAL candidates quit or ring out of the program.
The highlight of BUD/S is a brutal endurance test called Hell Week, which pushes the SEAL candidates to the extreme -- and beyond.
Picture the agony of basic training -- ramped up to the nth degree. For an entire week, sleep is limited to a few short hours, usually doled out in ten minute increments. These guys who want to be SEALs endure surf torture, where they're made to link arms and sit together in the freezing ocean for hours on end, battered by the waves. And then, when they finally are allowed out of the water, the instructors start sugar cookie drills -- where the candidates end up covered with sand.
Aching and wet, chaffing from that sand in places no human should chafe, they're brought into overheated classrooms and ordered not to fall asleep as they do intricate math problems or write essays.
Then they might go for a twenty mile run, in wet, leaden uniforms and soggy boots, carrying their IBS -- inflatable boat small, which isn't small at all -- atop their heads.
On and on it goes, nonstop for an entire week, with the instructors shouting at them the entire time, tormenting them, trying to get them to quit.
"All you have to do, Ensign, to end this torture, is step over to the bell and ring out. We both know you don't have what it takes. You'll never be a SEAL. You're not fast enough. You're not smart enough. You're not man enough. You're not good enough..."
See, the instructors are looking for the men who have what it takes, the men who will never quit. Because in a battle situation, you cannot call a time out.
Years ago, as I first learned about the SEALs, I fell in love with the idea of these men who would push themselves far beyond most people's breaking points -- and not for big bucks and glory. No, SEALs do what they do because they love our country, because they want to serve. No matter your political beliefs, you've got to respect that. And the more I found out about them, the harder and deeper I fell.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know a SEAL named Chris. He looks kind of like Viggo Mortensen's cuter brother. Smart, funny, honorable... He's like one of my fictional heroes, come to life.
We were hanging out together a few years ago, and I asked him the questions I always ask whenever I get a chance to talk to a Navy SEAL.
And, by the way, I always frighten SEALs, because I never ask what they consider to be standard questions about ops or equipment. Instead, I ask questions like, "How did you feel when you found out you'd gotten into the SEAL training program...?"
Total deer in the headlights look. The voice might even crack. "Feel?"
"Yeah. How did you feel when you went through Hell Week? What was it like to have men quitting around you, left and right?"
Chris had told me that in his BUD/S class, out of something like eighty-seven men who started the program, only thirteen finished.
Thirteen out of eighty-seven. Can you imagine?
"How did it feel -- to watch so many of your classmates leave?" I asked him. "How did you keep from quitting, too?" (Quitting, you know, can be very contagious.) "What were you thinking?"
Chris laughed. "I'll tell you what I was thinking," he said. And then he told me this story.
It was the very end of Hell Week. Chris and his twelve remaining teammates were cold, wet, chaffing, and hallucinating from lack of sleep. He told me that the palms of his hands had been rubbed completely raw. No skin left. None.
But that was okay, because in mere hours their week would end and the instructors would tell them that they were secure -- that this hellish phase of their training was officially over.
Except... an instructor led them into a classroom and told them all to sit. And he didn't look happy.
In fact, he was looking at them as if they were something nasty he'd found on the bottom of his shoe.
He finally spoke: "You are the worst BUD/S class ever. Not one of you has what it takes to become a SEAL. In fact, we're kicking you out. You're all going home. Right now. Today."
Chris told me he couldn't believe it. None of them could. Some of them even started to cry. They'd come so far, worked so hard...
But then another instructor came into the room, pulled the first one aside. They whispered together, then announced: "Okay, ladies. Here's the deal. The top brass wants to get rid of you, but we've convinced them to give you a second chance. You can stay in the SEAL program.
"If," the instructor continued, "you do Hell Week all over again. Starting. Right. Now."
Chris told me that, at this news, they were all crying. These big tough men. Tears just streaming down their faces. Hell Week. Again?
"Okay," the instructor said. "I know. It's too much to ask of you. So... there's the door. No one, absolutely no one, is going to think less of you if you stand up and walk out that door."
Chris told me he was sitting there, weeping, and looking at his raw, battered hands.
And you know what he was thinking?
Not of quitting. Not about the hot shower and soft bed that would be waiting for him if he gave up and went through that door.
No, he was thinking, "Duct Tape."
He was thinking: "If I wrap my hands with duct tape, I can make it through another week."
Do you know that not one of those thirteen young men walked out of the room that day? Not one of them quit. Like Chris, they were willing to go through Hell Week all over again in order to become SEALs.
After waiting a good long time, the instructors finally stepped back and swung a blackboard around. And on the flip side it said, "Gentlemen, you are secure."
Hell Week was over.
You see, this had been one last mind-game, one last test. One last chance to weed out the quitters from the men who were willing to wrap their hands with duct tape to make it through another week.
Chris and his classmates didn't have to go through Hell Week again. They just had to be willing to.
They weren't the worst SEAL candidates these instructors had ever seen -- they were among the best.
The best of the best.
If I wrap my hands with duct tape, I can make it through another week.
These are the men who become Navy SEALs.
These are the heroes of my books.
Do you understand why I'll never tire of writing their stories?
So now let me tell you about Justin, another Navy SEAL. He's a lieutenant, just twenty-eight years old. He's also a newlywed, despite having to reschedule his wedding when Hurricane Katrina trashed his home last August. He's been married for just seven months to a lovely young woman who, like me, is named Suzanne. The first year of marriage should be a time spent exploring a new phase of a relationship, giddy with hope and the promise of a long, fulfilling life spent by one another's side.
Instead, this past June, Justin was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
But hey, in this day and age, that kind of cancer is curable, isn't it?
For Justin, the bad news just kept on coming. Due to something called the Philadelphia chromosome, his only hope for a complete cure lies in a bone marrow transplant. Such a transplant requires a donor who is a bone marrow match, and unlike blood transfusions, that match has to be exact.
Neither of Justin's two sisters could provide that match.
Which leaves Justin hanging. Waiting. Hoping.
The chance of him finding a match is one in 20,000.
And yet Justin and his family remain undaunted. Justin is, after all, a Navy SEAL. He's a fighter, and his cancer is just another hurdle to overcome. When he heard that his chances of survival were thirty percent, he laughed and noted that his chances of becoming a SEAL had been only ten percent.
Still, despite his upbeat attitude, Justin knows that roles have been reversed. The SEAL who's used to saving lives is the one who now needs help.
And we can help.
There's a national bone marrow donor registry program (visit www.marrow.org) that allows regular, non-SEAL people like you and me to take on the role of hero for a change. It doesn't involve surf torture or a single sugar cookie drill.
All you have to do to help is register as a bone marrow donor. If you're between 18 and 60 years of age, there's a simple, easy test you can take, done by rubbing the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip-like swab. And yeah, okay. I've heard that the actual bone marrow transplant process can be uncomfortable on the donor's side. I'm certain, however, that it's nothing like Hell Week. And if it means saving a life...?
Sign me up.
You know, if they were characters I'd created for one of my books, Justin and his Suzanne would have to face hardship and conflict -- that's part of what makes a great romance novel. But the conflict they'd encounter would make them learn and grow closer than ever, and by the end of their book, they'd earn the right to a happily-ever-after ending.
Which, in their case, would include locating a donor -- that one person, one-in-20,000, who happens to be Justin's bone marrow match.
I wish I could write that happy-ever-after ending for Justin and Suzanne, but I can't. I can, however, do the next best thing. I can write and talk and shout about the need for each and every one of us to contact the bone marrow donor program, take the test, and be added to the registry.
You are out there, somewhere, you one-in-20,000 -- maybe you're reading this right now. Or maybe you're not Justin's one-in-20,000, but you're someone else's match. Someone else's chance to live happily-ever-after.
You can save someone's life, be someone's hero.
And the best part is that you don't need to wrap your hands with duct tape to do it.
New York Times bestselling romance author Suzanne Brockmann took the test to be added to the national bone marrow donor registry and is waiting to hear if she'll provide someone's real life happily-ever-after. She is the mother of two (and a PFLAG mom) who lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts with her husband, Dell author Ed Gaffney. Visit her website at www.SuzanneBrockmann.com.
How to help:
Find out more about being a bone marrow donor. Visit the National Marrow Donor Program, www.marrow.org and request a test kit. (Note: Military personnel and their families can also contact www.dodmarrow.com)
Organize a bone marrow registration drive in your neighborhood. Call Eddy at the C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Program at 800-627-7693, ext. 223.
Make a donation to the National Marrow Donor Program at www.marrow.org to help offset costs of testing.
Spread the word! Email the link to this blog to your friends and family.
Visit www.ImASwabbie.blogspot.com and www.soldierangels.org