Sean Parnell is one of those people who you may have never met, but still consider a friend. Chances are he considers you a friend, too. One of the reasons is because he’s a great follow on Twitter. He’s very supportive of fellow veterans and service members and interacts with fans of his massive bestseller, Outlaw Platoon. The book, which has sold over a million copies, details his time as commander of the U.S. Army's legendary 10th Mountain Division. Special Forces veteran and host of Hollywood Weapons Terry Schappert said of the book, “It’s emotionally raw and honest. I laughed and cried and called him the next morning and told him he got it right.”
His new book and first novel, Man of War, is out this week. The book release comes at an opportune time because it’s National Suicide Prevention Week and Patriot Day and he is dedicated to getting the word out about preventing suicide among veterans. A Purple Heart recipient who spent 485 days deployed in 2006-2007, he has seen three members of his platoon commit suicide since returning home. It’s an all-to-common trend that must change.
It’s easy to see why so many people on and off the battlefield admire Parnell’s heroism and commitment to veterans.
The De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures, free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their culture obsessions.
1. What's your favorite movie line and to whom would you like to say it?
“Get busy living, or get busy dying” from Shawshank Redemption! And in today’s digital age, where so many are beholden to social media and the internet—I want to say it to almost everyone!
2. What canceled show would you put back on the air?
The Office! But on one condition: that Steve Carell come back to play Michael Scott. The show was never the same after he left.
3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?
I love my job right now. Every day I get to help struggling veterans, and when I’m not doing that, I get to create and write great stories. The only other thing I really want to do is produce feature films and TV so I can REALLY bring some of these stories to life.
4. What advice do you remember your mother or father giving you?
Doesn’t matter what you want to do in life, always strive to be the best at it. And don’t let naysayers get in the way.
5. What’s the best present you ever received as a child?
I have no idea where this is coming from, but the first memory that popped into my head was getting Street Fighter II for Super Nintendo on Christmas morning.
6. What’s the best present you ever gave?
It may sound a little corny, but I think the gift of fatherhood. I had a great dad (and mom) growing up. Looking back, I see how important that was. So, I try to be as involved as possible in the lives of my kids. From packing their lunches, to playing Pokémon Go with my boys or coloring with my daughter, to helping them with their homework or going to their games, being a father is a full-time job. But it’s also a gift, one that you have to give every day. And one that I hope has a positive impact someday.
7. If you hosted a late-night show, who would be your guests and band?
On my first show, my first guest would be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, because he’s just badass in everything he does. And hands down, first band? Metallica.
8. What books are on your recommended reading list?
1) Harry Potter by JK Rowling: By far the best series of books I have ever read. Hands down. Masterful storyline. Deep and well-defined characters…I could read these books 100 times and never get sick of them. I stuffed the entire series (all but the Deathly Hallows) in my green Army A-bag and deployed to Afghanistan with them. My soldiers made fun of me for reading them at first. Then a few of them started reading the books as well. Soon, some of the toughest warfighters America has ever created were also Harry Potter super fans. The debates about whether Snape was a good guy or bad guy raged on every patrol. Thinking back on it, it was pretty funny to behold. Strong, grizzled combat veterans debating Hogwarts school policy was not something I thought I’d ever see.
2) Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: The Hobbit was the first book I’ve ever read and since then I’ve been a de facto resident of Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien is an author I’ve loved my whole life, and the world he created is truly epic in every sense of the word. And he’s a combat veteran. A total creative inspiration for me.
3) War of the Worlds by HG Wells: I read this book as a kid and it terrified me. It still does. I’m sure you’ve seen the movie. Now read the book.
4) Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield: This book is fiction but filled with so many leadership lessons. I read it before I went to Afghanistan, then again when I was recovering from my injuries in combat. The book is like fine whiskey. It gets better with age.
5 ) Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor: I read my first Scot Harvath thriller on combat outpost Marghah. I finished it at 2am. At 4am my unit got intel that 350 bad guys were coming to attack us. If you read Outlaw Platoon, then you know we made short work of them. When we made it back to our forward operating base, I tracked down every book by Brad Thor I could find and made short work of them too.
6) The Killing Floor by Lee Child: In my eyes Jack Reacher paved the way for the modern day thriller. Pick up a book by Lee Child and read it. They’re all written at a feverish pace. And who doesn’t enjoy Jack Reacher pounding people into oblivion?
7) Open Season by CJ Box: I read my first CJ Box novel in the mid 90s and loved it. When I was in Afghanistan I saw a few of his books lying around our makeshift library on our base. I started with Open Season and never looked back. Joe Pickett is a great character.
8) The Dark Tower series by Stephen King: If you’re a fan of King, you’ve got to read these books. There’s 8 of them. 4,250 pages in all. But this series of books is King’s Magnum Opus and many of his other books relate to The Dark Tower series. If you read The Stand, how could you forget The Man in Black? Well, he’s in these books too. Stephen King built a multiverse before it was cool. It’s Lord of the Rings meets Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Gunslingers and magic. Simply awesome.
9. How do you unplug from the news cycle?
It’s tough because I want to be up on what’s happening in the world, but the news cycle has been so negative over the last year it’s hard to handle. I think that negativity puts a damper on my day. It can make me unhappy. So when I unplug, I do it the right way.
I turn off the TV and get outside in the world. When I’m out, I want to be out. Not on my phone. Not on social media. I want to be present in the moment and appreciate the world around me.
11. Why did you decide to get involved in National Suicide Prevention Week?
I was in Afghanistan for over 485 days and witnessed some pretty horrible stuff. But ironically, the real war started for most of my platoon after we got home. Since 2007 Outlaw Platoon has lost more Soldiers to suicide than to heavy combat. That is a tragedy of epic proportions, and a real wake up call for me. Ever since I’ve dedicated my life to helping veterans struggling with post war life. I cofounded the American Warrior Initiative and partnered with Fairway Independent Mortgage to stem the tide of veteran suicide. Over the last year and a half, we’ve given over 30 service dogs to veterans who desperately need one. This is important because service dogs are in high demand, and incredibly expensive. Some vets wait over 10 years to be placed with a dog. The American Warrior Initiative cuts through all that, to get dogs into the hands of our vets as fast as possible. It’s been an incredible honor to be a part of that, and to serve those who serve.
It was so difficult! Don’t get me wrong, writing Outlaw Platoon was difficult. But when you’re writing memoir non-fiction, the story exists in your head as a memory that actually happened. Fiction is a whole different ball game. You create from scratch everything from the plot, and subplots to the characters, who all have internal and external conflicts. They all have their own psychology. It’s a monumental challenge to get it right and make it feel authentic. Writing Man of War took me 4 years, and I started from scratch on the story at least 5 times. But besides all that, writing fiction might be the coolest job ever. I get to take reality and crank it up to a fevered pitch in everything!