Area Army vets publish inside look at war on terror
When Marty Skovlund Jr. was growing up in Huron, S.D., he never expected that he would end up becoming a published author. "I hated writing," he said, noting that his former classmates would undoubtedly find it funny that the guy who barely manag...
When Marty Skovlund Jr. was growing up in Huron, S.D., he never expected that he would end up becoming a published author.
“I hated writing,” he said, noting that his former classmates would undoubtedly find it funny that the guy who barely managed to pass his English classes in high school would end up writing a book.
All it took, apparently, was finding the right subject.
“Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror” was an 18-month labor of love for Skovlund, who spent many a day and night painstakingly editing the more than 30 stories that fill the 480-page hardcover book.
Though only one of those stories is about Skovlund’s own years in the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 1st Battalion, he did write the preface, the introduction and the narrative that opens each chapter, which takes the reader on a chronological journey through each year of the “War on Terror,” from Sept. 11, 2001, to Sept. 11, 2011.
“At some points I would stay up 36 to 48 hours at a time,” he said. “The preface and introduction, I think I reworked that about 15 times. I wanted it to really grab the reader, so I put a lot of effort in. I’m proud of how it turned out.”
In fact, Skovlund said, making sure the book was the best it could possibly be was so important to him that the small business owner took his company, Blackside Concepts, and used it to create his own publishing brand around the book.
“I wanted to have complete control over the content,” he explained, which is why he turned down offers from a couple of major publishing companies that wanted to take on the project once they heard what it was about.
He even took pains to ensure that the physical appearance of the book was striking, using a hardcover binding and reworking the cover design several times.
“I wanted to make sure the physical copy was worthy of the stories in it,” he said.
Skovlund also ensured that all of the stories contained in the book were thoroughly vetted by the Army to make sure none of them compromised operational security in any way.
“Some of the guys who contributed their stories would only do so if I made sure of that,” he said.
Detroit Lakes’ own Nick Green, who was in the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 3rd Battalion from 2001-2005, said that the six pages he contributed to the book was subjected to intense scrutiny, even though he’d been out of the Army for nearly a decade by the time the book was published in October.
“A bunch of my stuff was scrubbed, even though I was very careful about what I wrote,” Green said.
“Everything was thoroughly vetted and declassified,” Skovlund said.
That, and the fact that “no one who wrote for this book did so in ‘look at me’ fashion,” helped to ensure that the book has received very little negative criticism thus far, Skovlund said.
“It’s had overwhelming support,” he said, adding that he learned recently the book has been selected for use as reading material in a class at West Point.
“It’s received a lot of support,” Skovlund said, both from the Army in general, and the Rangers in particular - which was particularly important to him.
“Their opinion means more, because these are the guys who actually lived it,” he added - and a lot of them are still friends.
“The Rangers are a real small, insular community,” Green added.
“Nick got out two years before I even went in (to the Army) and we still know all of the same people,” said Skovlund.
Because of that, they wanted to make sure the book was well received within the Ranger community - which by and large, has happened.
“Violence of Action” was such a successful effort, Skovlund added, that his company now has another 15 books in the pipeline, all of them telling the stories of veterans.
Both Green and Skovlund are eager to see that happen because the veterans are the ones who actually experienced much of what is later written about in history books.
“We were front and center for a lot of history that was made… a lot of things that people should know about,” Green said.
Skovlund also noted that the time for these veterans to tell their stories is “when it’s still fresh in their minds” -while keeping in mind that certain aspects of those stories might still be classified.
He first came up with the idea for writing “Violence of Action” after he met a Gold Star mother, whose son had recently been killed in action - on his 14th deployment.
“He had spent well over a decade in the regiment, but she (the mother) didn’t know much about what happened to him there,” Skovlund said.
In fact, he said, “I was shocked by some of the things that are in this book - things that I had no idea had happened.”
Now, those stories have been told, and are an officially a part of U.S. military history.
“Violence of Action” is currently available for sale at Book World in Detroit Lakes.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .