October 12, 2022
By Joe Kurtenbach
Dark places. To some extent, we’ve all been there. It’s part of the human experience to fail and to lose and to regret. Likewise, many of us strive to exhibit strength, perseverance, compassion and humility during those lonely hours, and to stand up steadfastly in the face of adversity. In that pursuit, we look for examples to follow and model our efforts after. People who have been there, done that, and made it through the darkness. We look for reassurance that if we hold fast and keep up the fight we, too, might find a new and brighter horizon.
If you haven’t heard of Eddie Penney or his book, Unafraid: Staring Down Terror As A Navy SEAL And A Single Dad—co-authored by Guns & Ammo’s own Keith Wood—prepare to make an addition to your list of inspirational reading.
At great cost in lives and treasure, more than two decades of war have provided the American people with some genuine heroes from our armed forces. After reading Unafraid, Penney may not count himself in their company, but there is no question that he walked among giants. His story is at times less heroic and more complicated, but those complications are what makes it relatable. Everyone can point to events and people who, for better or worse, shape their lives and perceptions. We all have obstacles and challenges that must be overcome to fulfill our goals. In the case of Penney’s story, though, everything is just bigger, louder and, seemingly, larger than life.
The autobiographical account reads like two different stories. One account is the tale of a Cincinnati boy turned Marine who, through dedication and hard work, eventually realizes his lifelong dream of becoming an elite warrior. Despite setbacks and challenges, Penney perseveres to become a Navy SEAL. Desiring to truly take the fight to our nation’s enemies, he continues driving forward and earns his place in one of the most exclusive units in the special warfare community. Through war, he hones his skill as a breacher, an assaulter, and an apex predator capable of hunting down evil men where they live and sleep.
There is another story, though, about a man adrift. Clinging to the anchor of his occupation, Penney describes failing to find purchase in any other aspect of his life. He honestly recounts his shortcomings as a husband, a father and a follower of God. Detailing his personal life evokes a feeling of paddling against a strong current, wishing for the refuge of shore. When circumstances place Penney in sole custody of his three young children, he answers the call. Understanding the need to feed, clothe and shelter them, Penney also acknowledges his struggle to connect with his family and to make himself emotionally available. Unsure of a solution, he sought out ways to conceal the divide including war, booze and medication.
Thankfully, through hard work, a resolute mindset and some seemingly divine intervention, Penney was able to conquer his darkness and navigate the trials of family, faith and the end of a career that for so long defined him.
Through 305 pages—22 chapters designated by the phonetic alphabet, “alpha” through “victor”—Penney’s book provides a means of catharsis for the author, and acts as a source of guidance for its readers. At times you can sense the discomfort as a tier-one operator strips off his armor to reveal his wounds and acknowledge his mistakes. At other times you can't help but to be humbled by his strength and determination. An interesting feature of the book, every chapter includes a “Hot Wash” section to help distill applicable lessons from the recollections. With the able hand of co-author Wood, Unafraid is an easy and engaging read.
I crushed through the book during recent travel to-and-from a British Columbia moose camp, and I don’t mind sharing that at times it had me tearing up (I also blame the bespectacled woman in seat 8B with the strong perfume). Seriously, though, plan accordingly, man tears are contagious and anyone who has served and raised a family will find some of the anecdotes strike “danger close.” All in all, it is a good, surprisingly quick read, and a reminder that no one is all hero but, with the right mindset, anyone can adapt and overcome.
Unafraid is available Amazon and other booksellers in hardcover, paperback and audio formats. For more information about the book, Eddie Penney, or the unafraid mindset, check out eddiepenney.com. And be sure to subscribe to Guns & Ammo for Keith Wood’s monthly “Spent Cases” column.
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