When I started working on THE NEW NORMAL, I did tons of research about the Marines and spent a lot of time following articles and videos on a certain battalion that was in Afghanistan at the time. I became emotionally invested and when they came home, I sobbed. Seriously. You can ask my family. I cried for days with relief that most of them made it home alive (and cried more for those who didn't). AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ANY OF THEM.
I never imagined that I'd ever get a chance to talk to any of the guys individually and be able to ask questions about what it was like in Afghanistan, but then I "met" Backhaus via an Internet forum and he was gracious and patient and incredibly helpful. In fact, some of the scenes you will read in the book were edited by him for realism and accuracy.
He's going back to Afghanistan soon and now my emotional investment in his battalion has become that much more profound. I wish he didn't have to go, but today is not about politics, it's about Backhaus. I'm going to miss that kid (God, I can't even imagine how his mother must be feeling right now, if I feel like crying!) and I pray he--and all of the guys in his unit--will come home safely.
I'll be sending him care packages while he's away. In fact, I've already started assembling the first one and he's not even gone yet! If anyone else would like to send him a package, email me for more information. Or, even better, you could send a care package to a random Marine through AnyMarine.com.
(And, Backhaus, I don't know if you'll read this, but be safe, take care of Andy, and when you get back I will have a copy of the book for you.)