Memoirs from members of Special Forces tend to mix combat fireworks with a leavening of modesty, but O’Neal, writing with veteran co-author Fisher (with Tom Coughlin: Earn the Right to Win, 2013, etc.), dispenses with the modesty at no great cost.
True to the traditions of the genre, the author passed a miserable childhood. At 15, he stole his cousin’s birth certificate and enlisted in the Army. Sent to Vietnam in 1967, he found his calling and fought enthusiastically until his deception came to light. Discharged, he re-enlisted under his real name, repeated his training, returned to Vietnam and soon joined the elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol units. After two years of grueling patrols and battles, he returned to the United States and Ranger School in 1971. With the war winding down, O’Neal served on elite parachuting teams and taught hand-to-hand combat before joining America’s first anti-terror unit. Yearning for action, he left the Army to train troops for Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, who was fighting Sandinista guerrillas. This produced action but ended disastrously in the death of O’Neal’s family, with O’Neal himself barely surviving capture and torture. In 1981, he returned to the Army to help organize its Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School. After retiring, he continued to train Special Forces in his aggressive techniques. His personal life was less happy. He undoubtedly suffered a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and often abused drugs both for PTSD and the pain of his many injuries.
Military buffs will give this high marks; general readers may find it hard to relate to the author’s relentlessly macho ethos, but they will find it hard not to admire his fierce dedication.