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ONCE A WARRIOR Author/Veteran Jake Wood Embodies Service, Selflessness, and Sacrifice

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When Marine sniper Jake Wood came home in 2009 from grueling tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, his country asked him to compartmentalize his traumatic memories, put his elite military training on a shelf, and adjust to living outside high-stakes situations. Wood’s book, ONCE A WARRIOR, published this week by Sentinel, is the powerful story of one Marine who found healing and renewed purpose after returning from combat, for himself and tens of thousands of fellow veterans. Over the past 10 years, with no money or experience, Wood and his colleagues have recruited over 100,000 volunteers to Team Rubicon. This organization has given meaningful direction to countless men and women. Having a continued purpose–a mission that matters–can be the key to a veteran’s successful transition from war to peace.

In this Meet Our Author Igloo interview, Wood talks about the formation of Team Rubicon and its ongoing value, the writing of ONCE A WARRIOR, and what he hopes will resonate most strongly with readers.

What was involved in founding Team Rubicon and how have you kept it going?

Unlike a lot of game-changing companies, Team Rubicon wasn’t founded at a white board or in an MBA program. We like to say TR was founded with an impulse to act. Following my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, I couldn’t just stand idly by and watch the devastation unfold in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Inspired to action, I organized a group of veterans and doctors to respond. Fast-forward a decade and Team Rubicon has scaled to over 130,000 volunteers and has responded to over 800 disasters. What’s kept us going along the way is simple: we are foolish enough to think we can change the world and smart enough to have a chance.

When and why did you decide to write ONCE A WARRIOR?

I first began writing during my first combat deployment, which was to Iraq during the deadliest year of the war. My infantry squad was running patrols through an area known as the Triangle of Death, and it unfortunately lived up to its name. Writing helped me process what we were experiencing, and that continued through my second tour in Afghanistan as a sniper. The decision to write ONCE A WARRIOR, however, wasn’t made until I hit two significant milestones. First, Team Rubicon was approaching its ten-year anniversary and I was finally convinced that we’d built something that would last for a hundred years. Second, after seeing my first child born – a daughter named Valija – I knew I needed to reflect on the tumultuous fifteen years I’d just endured in combat, disaster zones, and the funerals of dear friends. Writing seemed like the natural way to do that.

What elements of this book do you think will resonate most strongly with readers?

I think most Americans are waking up today wondering what happened to the country they love. As a veteran that fought for this country, that saddens me. My hope is that ONCE A WARRIOR’s themes of service, selflessness, and sacrifice will reignite within readers a glimmer of hope that America’s best days are before it, not behind it.

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