tv After Words Beau Wise and Tom Sileo Three Wise Men CSPAN February 15, 2021 11:30pm-12:25am EST
>> welcome to you both and thank you for speaking about your book so tell us what it was like to go but these two brothers and your sister as well because of the age difference you must always felt like it was to guide you. >> jeremy first of all ten years my senior and then was so much bigger and larger. in the youngest of four and we grew up in rural south arkansas a very ideal childhood and very wholesome. jeremy described it many times as "leave it to beaver".
>> you mentioned that you grew up with military heroes and your family. that you're playing army or navy your marines. and a lot of music playing in church but my brother and sister graduated from didn't have a big music department was a small private school in and say you have access to a lot of stuff that we didn't going to public school just
like the music and arts and things like that. >> can you talk about the people in your family. >> so the military heritage comes from my mom's family. and her mom is in the army air corps and he served and her mother's brother migrate uncle was a raider in the pacific campaign and had a head wound and her great uncle my grandmother's uncle and was a marine one of the original
doughboys. so the marine legacy goes way back it's pretty awesome for me to join the marine corps about a century later to connect with that heritage. >> that is something that stuck out reading the book. a sailor and a marine and a soldier i cannot a mad one - - imagine had a lot of jokes going around. >> you don't give any be sealed too much grief but when ben was army infantry and i was aspiring to the marine corps and it was all in good fun.
and to jack about the equipment that we use or whatever. and then you remember that. and how used do this project together. >> thank you for your service as well. we met for a pretty unique set of circumstances and then a syndicated column about fallen heroes and veterans but staff sergeant jesse williams is one that i wrote about he was killed in iraq but before he served with his brother on the infantry deployment so i connected with jesse's wife's
on - - wife almost one decade earlier and then i did stumble on the wise family story and wanted to know more about it and sonja put me in touch with ben's widow tracy and we talked and she put me in touch with beau and it went from there and i'm so honored to play a small part to help beau's story. >> one of the least favorite things if someone has been through traumatic experience there are times your heart is breaking they are telling the story but at the same time he wonder if it is helping to tell the story if you are leading them through something. so tom where there are things that you dead - - did intentionally to guide beau through the trauma to tell the story? >>.
>> i had the honor of interviewing more than 100 goldstar family members and worked some on books and veterans as well. but then to go through no preconceived notions. everybody grieves differently. but with beau flew to oklahoma and we sat down and right away things clicked there were times when beau said it's too much i need to step back. the minute he said that i said i got it. and i took over and i was happy to do it. and honored to do it. the bravery that beau had shown in the goldstar brother
but then be willing to open the wounds and explore about his brothers. is there parts you thought you didn't want to do this anymore thinking that it was cathartic or helpful? and there was a time and then i hated doing that to him and there were times i thought this heart i will keep fighting it and i knew that we had to get through this and we
had to finish it once and for all and preserve their legacy. and there were moments when i couldn't do it. and i needed to grieve to myself and that which comes to our rough stop and sometimes it just pours out after a while and you feel so detached emotionally. but having someone like tom to work with was a lifesaver because even though i didn't like doing that i had to just step away. >> where is the moment you felt you needed to do this project to tell the story?
journaling as an outlet many years ago and that makes up a very small percentage of the book. but i think i gave tom and i and idea of where we wanted to go. i didn't share them with him right away. and he told me his vision then the plan just think. there's a lot of things i want to say and he's saying it back to me without me telling at about him listed a few journal entries that were lost and i said let's use this and it really started the proposal for the book and in the
zero dark 30 and that was finally coming to a point where things had calmed down. so everybody was worried but for me it was something that i felt absolutely had to do i just told all the family members look. i understand if you don't want to be involved that is fine if there's something that you want just say at any time and i will be up to include it in there was a lot of that from green berets and families not just my story but a lot of veterans and the wise family and wise family friends.
it is a collaboration of so much effort from so many people to preserve that legacy. >> so how did you do this if you're working with green berets or navy seals of the story was not available? how did you work backward on this quick. >> that's a great question. there was a tremendous amount of research for this book more than any other book i have worked on and that is saying something because that's a lot of research and those books. but when you are dealing with two special operations warriors with more than 1600 combined days in combat over a decade you can only imagine
how many different people they served with how many lives they touched how many people they saved. we wanted to top it we couldn't talk to everyone but in the case of navy seal there were multiple guys employed while we were writing the book but some of them to their infinite credit called me from the war zone and i'm so appreciative this book could not have been written without the green berets and the infantry soldiers serving back to 2003 and 2004 and of course family members and friends. this book is for them and they did a tremendous job helping us and they continue to this day.
>> where there are things that surprised you, beau? because of what your brothers jobs were that they could not tell you along the way were things as you were writing that surprised you about your brothers? >> i was surprised by a lot of things. particularly when he relayed a lot of information and with those deployments first of all there were things and over a decade ago but once they realized i was dead set on the marine corps and infantry and then the information started to come in so as far as lessons learned and whatever they could share with me to acquit me they would been a lot of personal things during
the deployment in the way that they responded to grieve shocked me. in afghanistan he is home on paternity leave because his son luke was born and jeremy was in afghanistan. so when everything happened with chapman i flew home and met them stateside and linked up with the family and then the memorial service going back very quickly to afghanistan. i did not respond to grieve well at all. not proud of the way i responded i wanted to be honest and people to see that contrast. and then it's important for the reader, to 100 percent
blood brothers that are very alike can respond to grieve so different. i was raw emotion going back to afghanistan. and then trying to protect in every way and as we god into it he asked me did you know hosting bible studies and to keep himself on an even keel. so when i went to washington to try to pass what he could. >> is that something that happened when you were kids? are was this new?
like the way he fell back on his faith is that you would have expected? >> he was. he was a very spiritual person and the spiritual intellectual. they both inspired me read works from an early age like cs lewis. and we were inspired that way in a very christian and religious household. but then i would say of the three brothers then is the one that never deterred from his faith in any way. jeremy and i both had our moments asking the big picture questions that ben was very
driven faith wise. >> some of the things in the book that they won't let me do my job and with that insurgency of building hearts and minds and that sort of thing that one of the things that struck me as interesting was you presented your brothers as brothers there is a seal and a green beret but but you presented them as very human. was that a conscious decision to present them that way or did you realize that quick.
>> that is something tom encourage me to do early on. iodide allies them from a very early age. both of them. and tom said don't be afraid to let them be human. i like that sentiment to let people relate to them as great as they were. they were human and they had faults and getting into that was very important and it helped me to connect to them after-the-fact as well. so i was really grateful to have tom there. naturally left to my own devices not that tom wanted to downplay but just to make sure that i made them as human as
possible with the good and the bad and this is why they are such amazing people and heroes that deserve to be remembered. >> as a previous experience as an author why was that important? >> that is part of it. absolutely. i think this is not just a military book. it's about two young men who could have done anything they wanted in life and they chose to dedicate as much of themselves as they possibly could to protecting other people and they are not the only characters in the story. their families are a huge part of this. and i really wanted to help show the country not just the
men and women on the ground sacrificed but what the families go through. you may have and noticed we included some aol instant messenger messages between then and tracy when he was deployed not just talking about missing each other but she says i have to get something fixed at the house just the everyday things that couples go through and then of course while she is raising their son, luke. i hope this book gives a window into that sacrifice and it won't just appeal to the military community of course we want them to embrace the story and hope they will but i think everyday americans as well just to get a sense of what these men and women are willing to sacrifice on a
daily basis. >> there is a point when all three of you were deployed at the same time in afghanistan and how that affected the family bed day today how that affects the family not having one out of three uncles around were missing a family member is that something you discussed before you went is that something to get a handle after deployment how that would affect your family? >> you are right. took the deployment to truly appreciate what it was like. not even the first appointment to this day i have no idea what it's like to be deployed as a father. in my opinion, being a father now, looking back, it was
difficult enough as a husband with my second deployment but the first you are young and bulletproof and if something happens you don't think about it if you haven't been exposed to that mortal danger before. so now looking back at how many deployments they did as fathers is staggering to me. i think you are right. >> another thing that stuck out to me in the book your brothers are there and you expect to see them like they will pop up on the base and you will see them. is that part of your night activity day that that's what
your experience would be like? >> and i did wonder if there is any chance whatsoever of me getting close to jeremy. i did not know, a new that when luke maybe i did not know it's been so long i don't remember but i remember wondering if i knew that jeremy was there but i didn't know where i knew ben would be on his way soon. so i was just wondering what are the odds and eventually it did happen under bad circumstances when jeremy passed and ben and i came home for the memorial service because he wasn't active duty or working directly for the cia unfortunately he was not allowed to be buried at
arlington. which was a fight the family took up early on. we thought maybe we should and later we said maybe he would just prefer to be buried closer to home. but we did get him buried in virginia and we found out it was going to happen but then ben and i bumped into each other in kuwait. literally and physically bumped into each other. it's a small world but a much smaller shooter world. not knowing jeremy was cia early on i didn't know the odds but it was always in the back of my mind. >> we surprised when he left the seals that had been such a big dream for him. >> yes. it was. and i think with the culture
and the deployment changes he was ready to move on to something else. but i think his aspirations i really don't know why. honestly now that you mention it i didn't get a chance to talk to him because once i enlisted that was the last time the three of us would be together again at the same place at the same time. i didn't even get to go to ben's wedding and i believe i was at 29 palms in the last phase of deployment. there's a lot of things i missed and conversations missed that i think about today and that's probably one. >> he was working security for the caa?
>> one - - cia? >> yes. global response the same type of job as you saw in 13 hours they work for them but not organic to that specific. >> but that was part of a national conversation i don't know if you would feel more comfortable talking about that but you talk about that extensively in the book how unusual that was it's a part to report out and decipher? >> is something i wanted to talk about a lot. are not really to tell anyone
but i think my frustration and then and this is where we got clarification and we just got to understand a little better and when the information is coming back you don't want to give a family partial information or to speculate so it was frustrating for me early on especially early 2010 ben and i were having this conversations why can they tell us where the explosion occurred? inside or outside? you don't want to give a family member or 99 percent of the information you wait until you have 100. knowing what i know now and working with tom and putting all the pieces together and
doing clarification. >> can you tell us the pieces you did put together from that experience? it was such a national story can you go over what happened? >> i vividly remember hearing about it december 30th 2009. the very key moment in the hunt for osama bin laden directly tied to that and with the shorter version the cia was duped by al qaeda the heroes of the caa involved it was and intelligence thing that could happen with those exhaustive investigations to make sure something never happens again.
the person i have to credit so heavily helping us in this area is pulitzer prize-winning new york times reporter who wrote an exhaustively researched book called the travel agent beau connected with him pretty early before i met beau and right away he said he would help in any way he could. graciously let us use excerpts from his book and our book if you read the triple agent echoes to the entire history which is so closely tied to one of the key moments of the war on terror that eventually help lead to navy seals killing osama bin laden. >> so what did happen that day? very briefly what led to this investigation?
>> it was in the providence and in afghanistan in 2009 and the man they thought was a caa double agent infiltrated al qaeda i was applied the whole time through al qaeda if you read the reporting there were suspicions al qaeda number two personally was involved in the plot and it was a suicide bombing nine total were killed seven caa he wrote on - - cia heroes including jeremy the deadliest day since the eighties it was an absolute tragedy and we mourn for their families as well. >> and that's why it was so important for you to figure out, beau?
>> yes. although it came out years ago i thought it was important i think tom felt it was important also that you get frustrated in the moments of grief and you point a finger but the guy that was giving us this information then and i , he looked like an operator. he look like someone you would see downrange i can see the heart breaking like you wanted to pour his heart out to us and i know in hindsight he did not want to make the mistake of giving us partial information.
>> the book is nonpartisan it feels like you made a good effort to include voices from outside including those who are offering condolences or compassion to your family. is that something you talked about or did that come naturally? >> yes. it was an effort for a story like this one, i don't think it is political in any way. that regardless of what i think it came naturally. jeremy and then and beau were inspired by the speech president bush gave to the joint session of congress after 9/11 and the unity the country fell in a moment partially ben was already in the military but certainly both jeremy in a lot of ways
to leave medical school to become a navy seal. and then you move through the story of course president bush leaves office and president obama takes over and the kindness obama showed the seven families and gave a speech at langley with the leon panetta cia director reaching out to the families personally including the wives when ben was killed over two years later you will see in the book is a handwritten note from secretary panetta who by the way helped us and gave us a beautiful endorsement for this book. you can tell the wise family story means a lot to leon panetta there are democrats and republicans and independents it is so much bigger than what divides us the military sacrifice and something that all americans
can unite on and be proud of what armed forces are willing to do for us. >> so the idea as a nation to vote as a community we should be there to listen to the stories when people come home so i appreciate that immensely. but you said when your brother arrived at dover and another family member how do you and asked you to kill them also what was your response and how do you feel about that now? it was such an in the moment thing to say. >> from one grieving family member to another at the time it made perfect sense i do not respond to grief very well at all in my combat experience was minimal but in retrospect it was a blessing.
was a good thing, not one time ever i had to pull my trigger. i was angry about that at one point in time but with my first appointment it was kind of a joke at one point saying i was good luck or bad luck they would put me on whatever patrol going west. it will happen. but it's a good thing that i didn't it's a good thing it didn't ever happen for me i can call it luck or a blessing or whatever it was i am grateful that everyone in the room and those family members and at one point if there is one thing i can share i just
learned that from ben's teachings don't chase the fight many people have told me be careful what you wish for you might get it. >> the book has only been out for a minute that have people reached out to you to tell you more stories or comment on what they read? >> yes countless family members have reached out actually i was just messaging yesterday with the brother of one of the cia heroes killed. he got the book and he will be connecting with beau shortly. there is nothing more important to us than that.
>> beau he had to address many levels of guilt and then to leave your battle buddies behind and then to being pulled entirely from the battle leading to a dark place to me about what your journey has been since then so maybe describe what happened that night. >> you just articulated very well the survivors guilt compounded because there were multiple instances where being away from my marines two weeks at a time i felt guilty every night and then i was thinking about them and praying to god nobody got hurt while i was
absent. so as we talk about in the book getting back to them was such a relief in one of the best feelings in the world. and my oldest friend in the marine corps the first thing is that where's johnson so i climbed the ladder and ran up there and having that response has crazy as it sounds it felt like just as good as going home in so many ways and the relief was gone. so leaving the infantry or restricted from those units it's like the guilt came back. so i struggled for many years with it doing instructor jobs even though i stayed in the marine corps with odds and ends things i signed up for a
munition and i felt robbed and like a lesser marine in some ways that started me on a downward spiral. eventually that kind of thinking eventually it will become something of self-pity we feel sorry for yourself. and once you get to that point it will start accelerating quickly. and then those moments that you are talking about toward the conclusion i thought about a lot of things and i thought about then suffering a or ten rounds and he was fighting for every last breath and thinking he will fight for every impossible breath and you are
looking at this option and that is when his last moments in the legacy of everything they did and it made me feel like know you will keep going and you will fight if he can fight you can fight. >> are there things you have done since then to help? >> yes. there is a lot of things. and with ben's example, trying to get back into my faith and stop blaming god me personally, but whatever your faith is that you get grounded to make sure you are taking care of yourself with heart mind and soul and we stay in the marine corps, there is no such thing as the next marine.
we connect with that family. during this book writing process is helped me exponentially because now i have reconnected to the entire platoon almost. now we have a couple 20 member text exchange and annoy each other. so just to stay connected. >> and so that part of the story you can imagine that was a tough interview that day. as a writer where there things you did for yourself to help yourself through the writing of the traumatic story? >> sure. absolutely. i will not lie it kept me up many nights as well and i
still think about it. this story and a lot of the previous stories i have had the honor of helping others tell. i think a lot about ben and jeremy of course but i think about what then did knowing his brother had already passed away and went back for multiple deployments, away from his family away from tracy and the kids and was willing to do that and fought so hard while he was there and saved so many lives just hours before he was shot. and then to battle so hard after he was wounded six days in the hospital and i think about his wife and beau to fly to germany to be with him in
his final moments. those are not things you can easily put out of your mind and frankly i don't want to because it is a reminder for a civilian like me of what someone i have never met was willing to do to protect my family and other families like mine. >> you developed a friendship through this and going to the mets game and your daughter was named in honor. what was that like? what is said trepidation did it feel that way? how did that progress? >> right away. we hit it off immediately. we had a couple of beers in oklahoma and it's like we had known each other for years.
we went to virginia, my home state and started off in northern virginia doing research we went to the nationals game and then went to virginia beach area to pay respects to ben and jeremy were they are buried. then the nationals went to that game and then a few months later that my wife and i learned that she was pregnant but also our daughter had down syndrome. one of the first people i called was beau. he was right there for me every step of the way and i will always be so grateful to him so proud and honored to call him a friend. >> are there questions he was still like to have answered? >> we found out so much.
i think we could have made this book 500 pages. and like you said earlier the green berets and the seals and those from infantry unit and contractors, i don't have social media so anything from those outlets goes through tom but this guy reached out and we're still learning so much all the time. i would not do it again it was very cathartic and painful but very rewarding and we are still getting rewarded each and every day by learning more about jeremy and ben is more people reach out to us. i think i'm done asking questions for a while.
>> what is the response? you have heard back from people since the book has come out? >> the responses been unbelievable it is overwhelming we are so thankful and the gold star families that i know have reached out the story means a lot to me and gives me a voice even though it's not about my loved one but then there are people reaching out every day who we didn't get to talk to while working on the book. in fact one of the airborne guys who was with been on one of his final flights in afghanistan are giving him medical care reached out and
told me what he did and he would never forget ben and has always been praying for the wise family and i relayed that to beau immediately. it's been such an overwhelming response. and it's worthy of the wise family sacrifice. >> thank you both for talking with me i enjoyed reading your book. enjoying it is not the right word but enjoyed learning your story and about that place in time. good luck with your launch. >> thank you so much for having us. >> thank you kelly and for your support
problem we live in a place that is destitute doesn't have a lot of capital or opportunities. so the solution for that is if you want a job, people on the right they complained about my argument and analysis but to get people to places where they can work and be independent or maintained indefinitely. and the ada you can do a public policy or putting university there to magically transform and economically
stagnant community is not supported by the evidence. there is a lot of good things like the labor market which makes wages better and employment opportunities better than what we can do along those friends bed the idea we will change the economic outlook in kentucky or ohio or michigan with aluminum tariffs or by making those noises with the chinese is wishful thinking. a lot of it is hereditary. people tend to inherit their parents problems and ways of looking at the world and they are biases and habits. and it's difficult to interrupt that even when they should be. there's not a good policy for that although better schools i think word certainly do some good on that front.
that was the case for me where dumb luck they happen to go to a place of extraordinarily good public schools and teachers who could point me in the right direction and tell me what to read and give me ideas about what it vocation to look like for somebody who likes to write but if you don't have that in your community that it would not be created by a government policy. is something on with the economic opportunities so have a national economic opportunity agency for those opportunities. so my political views are pretty simple. what people need from their of those services that are delivered in a way and not to