Part 3: The Lessons Of Afghanistan
Lieutenant Sean Parnell of the 10th Mountain Division had never been in combat before, but he found himself leading 40 men in Afghanistan in 2006.
They were up against seasoned, fierce, professional fighters whose only goal was to kill Americans.
On his return from Afghanistan, Sean promised his men he'd tell their story and he has done that in a book called 'Outlaw Platoon.'
7 News anchor Anne Richter spoke at length with Parnell - excerpts from the conversation air Thursday nights on 7 News This Evening and our late newscasts.
Here's Anne's report for Part 3:
"Without thinking, I said, 'I love these men, sir.' I'd never said that out loud before. Perhaps there are no heroes, just men who are not afraid to love. I thought of Brown, Howie and McCleod. I thought of Dixon picking up Baldwin, even after he'd been shot and was going into shock. I thought of Pantoja ingnoring the ragged hole in his face as he treated everyone around him. Love cements selflessness."
- excerpt from 'Outlaw Platoon'
In the book 'Outlaw Platoon', author Sean Parnell talks of bonds forged in battle.
At age 24, parnell was a platoon leader in charge of 40 men in a rugged outpost close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Fighting was fierce; the enemy was out to kill.
All but one of Sean Parnell's men made it home alive, but not without battle scars - both visible and invisible.
"Soldiers join the Army because they want to protect their country and when they go to combat, they see horrific things. The come back totally changed. When they're sitting around the dinner table with their families, it's hard for them to talk about the combat experience without it kind of being a downer, without it kind of depressing the mood. So when a soldier sees that happen, they take the war and all these horrifying experiences and lock it away inside. When they see their experience doing damage to others, they lock it away and it corrodes them from the inside out. The war can destroy a human being from the inside out," said Sean.
Now, six years later, the men of the Outlaw Platoon continue to battle their demons.
"They're struggling. I would say 65 percent of them are truly struggling. I would even wager to say 100 percent of them have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don't want to speak for them and some of them are coping with it really well and some of them aren't. Some of them, the VA and the government are treating really well. Some of them aren't getting the treatment that they need," said Sean.
So, what can we do to help?
Sean says it's as simple as listening.
"American society is not doing enough to help veterans bear the burden of war and the way that they do that is just listening," he said.
Sean Parnell says he lost aspects of himself in Afghanistan and so did his men.
So, writing this book, he said, was cathartic.
"The elements that I lost in myself I see in the eyes of my kids. They still have that innocence. There are parts of myself that will be gone forever so I reconcile those losses every time I look in their eyes," said Sean.
The book is called 'Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan.'
It has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for five weeks in a row.
(Interested in the book? Read an excerpt from it, and more comments from Parnell, here.)
We've posted the entire interview with Sean, starting here.