Guest Post by Shelby Kearns
The candor and vulnerability in The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy by Robert O’Neill and Dakota Meyer just might resurrect the military memoir/self-help genre.
This new book by O’Neill and Meyer certainly has its predictable moments, emulating American Sniper and other made-for-Hollywood books. Part one has life lessons from O’Neill’s upbringing in Butte, Montana, and Meyer’s in Columbia, Kentucky. Part two is stories of boot camp, combat, and their post-military careers. Their Hollywood-worthy stories include O’Neill firing the shot that killed Osama bin Laden and Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009.
What’s refreshing is O’Neill and Meyer’s candor compared to other “celebrity veterans” who author books within this genre. They deviate from what SEALs call the “silent professional,” an ethos practiced by service members that often follows them into their civilian lives. Both are open about their mental health challenges, including O’Neill’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Meyer’s suicide attempt. The Way Forward has other moments of vulnerability: Meyer caring for a cow and 4-H project named Tinkerbell and experiencing periods of alcoholism; O’Neill sharing the social media gaffes and SEAL infighting that garnered criticism.
Because the American public is more cynical after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, readers may have less of an appetite for the braggadocio that is typical of the military memoir/self-help book. However, O’Neill and Meyer eradicate the mystique that often surrounds celebrity veterans by sharing experiences that are as messy and complicated as the war that made them famous.
The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy by Robert O’Neill and Dakota Meyer. HarperCollins, March 2022.
Reviewer bio: Shelby Kearns is a writer who received her B.B.A. from Texas A&M University and her M.A. from the University of Chicago. She lives with her husband, Matthew, in Lawton, Oklahoma, and tweets at @shelbytkearns.