An exhilarating story of a young Navy SEAL whose relentless faith transformed his life and inspired everyone who knew his courageous story.
In A Warrior’s Faith, Ryan Job’s close friend, Robert Vera, recounts how the highly decorated Navy SEAL’s unstoppable sense of humor, positive attitude, and fierce determination helped him survive after being shot in the face by an enemy sniper on a roof in Ramadi, Iraq.
Though blinded, the irrepressible Job recovered from his wounds and began facing a new set of obstacles with his characteristic humor and resolve. He married the girl of his dreams, hunted elk, climbed Mt. Rainier, graduated college with honors, influenced countless people around him, and was looking forward to being a father—before his life was tragically cut short by a hospital medical error.
Vera’s raw, often funny, and heartfelt account of his friend’s life offers readers a way to find hope in the middle of life’s raging storms.
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About the Author
Robert Vera enjoyed a twenty-year career in the banking industry. In 2006 he took a leap of faith to follow his dream to become an entrepreneur. Robert serves on a number of non-profit boards and as a mentor to returning veterans. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Boston College. He is married with two children and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
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A Warrior's Faith
Navy Seal Ryan Job, a Life-Changing Firefight, and the Belief That Transformed His Life
By Robert W. Vera
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Robert Vera
All rights reserved.
MY BOOK OF JOB
* * *
FOR THE RECORD, I don't believe in coincidences. There is a plan for each of us, a force that brings us together, then twists and binds us into a single length of rope attached to our shared destiny. You were meant to read these words. This story is for you and is now part of your plan.
The last sight Navy SEAL Ryan Job ever saw clearly was the glare of the sun on the battlefield, followed by a bright flash from a window of a faraway building. Less than a second later, a chain of events began that would alter the trajectory of his life. They would transform him physically, emotionally, and spiritually into a man whose story inspires everyone who knows it. It's a hard story to hear in some ways—a story of pain and loss and sacrifice. But it's also a story of hope and triumph.
There are amazing parallels between the life of Ryan Job and the Job in the Bible (both are pronounced Jobe). They were both good men who were tested and then transformed by the way they responded to their own suffering and loss. Suffering and loss are part of the human condition; we are all subject to them. How we react to our own suffering reveals our true character and individual greatness. Both the Job of the Bible and Ryan Job could have reacted to their experiences by living the rest of their lives as victims. However, both Ryan and the Job in the Bible chose a braver, better way, what some might call the hero's way.
Ryan acted greater than all the adversities in his life. This is what we admire about all our heroes: their uncommon acts in response to life's greatest challenges. Heroes run toward, not away from, burning buildings and the sounds of gunshots, cries, and sirens. Heroes put others ahead of themselves. Heroes work long hours to give their children better lives. Heroes pick us up when we are down and pull us from the wreckage of our own lives. Heroes act greater than the people around them. Heroes stand terrified on the cliff of danger and then step forward anyway. Ryan Job was a hero not just because of what he did in war but rather because of what he did after war.
The biblical story of Job is one of the oldest stories in Scripture. Job was a blameless and righteous man who had everything. God permitted Satan to test Job to prove Job's unyielding faith in God's grace and goodness. He allowed Satan to take away Job's vast wealth, his beloved family, and his health; yet through it all, Job stood steadfast in his faith and acted greater than his circumstances. Job trusted that his Redeemer was real. Through the process, Job was transformed by his suffering, and in the end Satan was rebuked and God restored all of Job's riches, and more. Rather than becoming a victim, Job turned into someone greater, an Old Testament hero whose example has given courage and hope to the world for thousands of years.
Ryan Job's story bears an uncanny resemblance to the life of his biblical namesake. He had every reason to become a victim, to retreat into bitterness. Instead, just like the Bible character, he took advantage of a life-altering event to survey what he believed and why. What he discovered inspired him to invest in his faith and make fundamental changes in how he lived. Instead of becoming a victim, he became a hero, though he never saw himself as one. The circumstances that he found himself in forced him to think differently about his life, and these new thoughts led to new beliefs. His new beliefs led to new behaviors, which led to a new lifestyle and, thus, a transformed life.
Many Bible scholars tell us that the book of Job is a rationale for why bad things happen to good people. I have read the book of Job many times and can't find any evidence to support this theory. I believe that the lesson of Job is that pain, suffering, and faith all combine to become the necessary crucible that transforms a life from an ordinary one to an extraordinary one. Faith gives us the assurance that pain has a purpose in our lives—we just don't know what it is yet. What was unique about Job was not his intense suffering but rather his response to it. He accepted it with grace and humility, one time even thanking God for it.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and brilliant thinker, explained suffering best when he wrote, "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle." Ryan's story is proof that pain, loss, and suffering have a purpose in our lives and are part of a greater plan.
Ryan's story has been chronicled in a number of books and films, including the book The Sheriff of Ramadi by Dick Couch, the film Act of Valor, the book Service: A Navy SEAL at War by Marcus Luttrell, the bestselling memoir American Sniper by Chris Kyle, and the movie adaptation of American Sniper produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. Chris was one of Ryan's closest friends, and he dedicated his book to Ryan: "I'd also like to dedicate the book to the memory of my SEAL brothers Marc [Lee] and Ryan [Job], for their courageous service to our country and their undying friendship to me. I will bleed for their deaths the rest of my life." I later came to know Chris through Ryan. Chris and Ryan served together on the battlefield with their Navy SEAL team the day Ryan's transformation began. After the war and by what some would call a coincidence, my life and both of theirs wove together for a brief time. The coincidences pile up to the point that you have to consider Einstein's observation that a coincidence is God's way of working anonymously.
Ryan was a tough Navy SEAL, a true warrior, and an American patriot. He was also a devoted husband, loving father, and a loyal friend. The way he and I met is inexplicable and unlikely. And though we only knew each other a short time, it was long enough to alter the course of my life forever. I write this story to honor Ryan and those he respected and loved, and as a way of saying thanks to him for showing me how to live fully—ruthlessly abandoning my old life in order to embrace a new one full of adventure, faith, and trust. This is my book of Job.
TOP GUN AMBITION
Ryan Job was the oldest of three children whose family had a long history of military service. His grandfather was a pilot in World War II. Ryan's lifelong dream was to be a Navy SEAL, a member of the elite Special Forces team that fought on sea, air, and land. Then after a few years, he'd trade his rifle for a joystick to fly jets as a Top Gun pilot. After his military career was over, he'd marry a beautiful woman with a great smile and live on a ranch with a horde of kids and pets. Together they would hunt and fish and live a life of adventure.
Ryan grew up in Issaquah, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He loved history, science, and the outdoors. He was an above-average athlete with a strong work ethic and no ego, which made him a great leader. He spent most of his free time hunting and fishing.
When he was fourteen, Ryan latched on to his dream and started reeling it in. Since having a private pilot's license would improve his chances of being a Navy flyer, he saved nearly $20,000 for flying lessons by working after school as a janitor. Within two years he had his license. Even as a teenager, Ryan had an extraordinary capacity for hard work, an unwavering faith, and a fierce determination when it came to achieving a goal he had set for himself.
Ryan was smart and determined but, by his own admission, not much interested in school. College was a box he needed to check off, but he wouldn't let it get in the way of his real desires. In 2002, after three years at the University of Washington, he dropped out to join the Navy at the age of twenty-two. He was living his dream.
Coincidentally, many years before I ever met or knew Ryan Job, I heard about his standout performance in SEAL training. Sean Carter, a good friend from my hometown of Boston, had joined the Navy with hopes of becoming a SEAL. The grueling SEAL training program is called Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S. The attrition rate is nearly 90 percent; a higher percentage of candidates make it into the NFL from the college football ranks than survive BUD/S. All Navy SEAL candidates are grouped into BUD/S classes and each class is assigned a specific number. Sean and Ryan started BUD/S in the same training class. Most of Sean's tales about his experiences included a guy named Jobie. He was the brunt of every instructor's abuse, but he took their torture with such a great attitude that they eventually came to love him for it.
Ryan and Sean arrived at the BUD/S training facility on the same day and at the exact same time, unknown to each other when they walked through the gated entrance together. The two became fast friends, and soon Jobie's stories began filtering back to me even before "indoc," the indoctrination program to prepare raw recruits for the challenge of BUD/S. Instructors had the candidates line up for inspection and information. Ryan stood in his blue Navy uniform complete with traditional dog bowl hat. He was singled out immediately because of his build. Though he was strong, he was not the lithe, athletic type; he was heavy for his height. He referred to himself as "husky." One of the instructors saw what he thought was a weak link and ordered Ryan to demonstrate the O-course for all the others.
The O-course, or obstacle course, began with a progression of logs fashioned into hurdles that increased in height. Stronger than a bull and built like a bulldozer, Ryan got off to a good start. But when he jumped from the four-foot-high log to the six-foot-high log, he ended up hanging upside down.
My friend Sean described the scene:
All 250 of us stood there in silence watching him hang upside down. After about a minute, sweat started dripping from his forehead in a steady stream, but nobody said a word. Gravity, his sweaty hands, and his husky build were all conspiring against him. We all expected him to drop and were hoping somehow he'd land on his feet. But Ryan let out a primordial grunt and righted himself. Then, nimble as a cat, he danced to the finish of the O-course. It was like watching a bulldozer do the foxtrot. The instructors were silent—in shock, I suppose—until one of them walked up to him and said, "Job, today you have joined the ranks of the gladiators." Ryan offered a slight grin.
Ryan told me that if it were not for Sean, he may not have passed BUD/S, or at least not the timed run test. BUD/S consists of three phases. In order to make it past the first phase, all candidates are required to complete a four-mile run course in under thirty-two minutes while wearing combat boots. The run course is a soft sandy beach; running in sand is like running in mud. Running eight-minute miles for four miles in sand wearing boots is tough for even the most agile and fittest of athletes. "My passion for food made the run a little more challenging for me than the other candidates," Ryan admitted.
Running in sand requires a unique gliding or skimming-like stride that is altogether different from the normal "strike and push" running technique. Ryan especially hated running fast, and his technique was to finish any way possible. The instructors knew that Ryan would struggle on this test. Just before the run, one instructor walked up to Ryan and Sean, pointed at Ryan, and said, "If he fails, you both fail, and you're both gone." Ryan said that right from the start, Sean pushed him from behind as hard as he could and continued to do so the entire four miles. They both finished just under the thirty-two minute cut- off time. "There was this whining that sounded like over-stressed hydraulics; he was grunting, spitting, sputtering, coughing, and there were other awful sounds coming out of him. It was close, but we both made it," Sean recalled. Ryan was proud of his slow and steady, "deliberate" pace. He once told me that he had the speed of a narcoleptic sloth.
BUD/S was intense, and it became more so as instructors identified an individual's weaknesses and drilled down on them. "Most people despise being cold and wet," Ryan told me later. "The instructors knew this, so they would put us through surf torture every chance they got." Surf torture consisted of a group of trainees lying faceup in the shallow surf, arms locked together, as the sixty-degree Pacific water washed over them. A lot of people just up and quit in the first few days because they were too cold. But Ryan didn't mind surf torture, he explained to me, because he was like one of those dogs with a mass of fur that both keeps them warm and hides all the rippling muscle underneath. "My build naturally insulated me. I was always warm. Soon I noticed that people were jockeying for a position next to me during surf torture. That's the only time I was popular!"
The husky recruit was a marked man. The instructors—all hardened, ruthless Navy SEALs—mercilessly harassed him at every opportunity. His fellow classmates were sympathetic but happy that Ryan diverted the instructors' attention away from them. Ryan was rolled back from his original class more than once—meaning he had to drop back to repeat some training and join the class behind him—which made his stay in BUD/S significantly longer. "Ryan endured the worst possible 'legal' mental, physical, and emotional abuse from some of the hardest men on the planet, and he never even came close to cracking," offered a former BUD/S classmate. Near the end of the first phase of BUD/S, some of the hardest instructors became fond of the husky kid with the great attitude. Instead of the instructors breaking Ryan, he broke them, and they loved him!
As the class prepared for Hell Week, a Sunday/Saturday training evolution with little food or sleep, a BUD/S instructor was telling the class in a very loud voice that most of them would not make it. Most of them would quit and walk away. Then he walked directly over to Ryan and stood inches away from him, lowered his voice, and smiled. "Except for you, Job. Hell Week will be just like every other week around here for you." Ryan passed Hell Week with flying colors.
BUD/S was the crucible that tested and transformed Ryan physically. He would go on to finish all three phases of BUD/S, meeting every physical requirement and earning his Navy SEAL Trident. In the years to come he would be tested over and over and be transformed in other profound ways.
SEAL TEAM 3
Ryan said the abuse was a thousand times worse after he graduated from BUD/S and was assigned to his new SEAL team. "As a new guy, if your SEAL team does not harass you mercilessly, it means they don't like you," Ryan said. "Based on the consistency and severity of the abuse I took, there was no question that everyone on the team really liked me." Most new SEAL team guys suffer the generic frat-like initiations: drinking vile concoctions of booze and body fluids, shaving heads and eyebrows, and the like. "Unfortunately, I was assigned to a very creative and dedicated team; it seemed that they spent as much time planning my hazing as they did planning combat missions. It was like art to them, and after they finished with me, they would all sit back and admire their work."
The SEAL teammate who started out as one of Ryan's harshest critics eventually became one of his closest friends. Chris Kyle, a seasoned Navy SEAL, described Ryan's hazing in his bestselling book American Sniper:
I think the new guy who made the biggest impression was Ryan Job. And the reason was that he did not look like a SEAL; on the contrary, Ryan looked like a big lump. Being a new guy we would have beat Ryan anyway, but his weight made things a lot worse for him. We actively tried to make him quit. But Ryan wasn't a quitter. You couldn't compare his determination to anyone else's. He was such a hard worker, so sincere, and so funny, that at some point we all just went, "I love you. You are the man." Because no matter how he looked, he truly was a SEAL. And a good one. We tested him, believe me.
It's remarkable that Chris would choose the words, "We tested him." The same words were written about Job in the Bible: "But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10). Ryan prevailed on every test.
For four years, Ryan took all the hazing and abuse aimed at him in stride, honed his skills, and bonded into the brotherhood of the SEAL teams. In April 2006, he arrived at his first combat duty station, 7,000 miles from home, in the most dangerous city in the world: Ramadi, Iraq.
Excerpted from A Warrior's Faith by Robert W. Vera. Copyright © 2015 Robert Vera. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAuthor's Note, ix,
Part 1: Tested, 1,
1. My Book of Job, 3,
2. A Many-Sided Struggle, 17,
3. "I'm Okay", 31,
Part 2: Transformed, 47,
4. A Place of Healing, 49,
5. My Sign, 63,
6. Transformation, 85,
7. Looking Forward, 95,
8. Manly Shopping, 111,
Part 3: Redeemed, 123,
9. A Different War, 125,
10. The SEALs, 143,
11. A Hollow Victory, 151,
12. One Wild, Precious Life, 163,
13. Chris Kyle, 171,
14. Searching, 177,
About the Author, 207,
What People are Saying About This
I had the great honor to know Ryan Job as a SEAL brother and also as a member of the small unique fraternity within the brotherhood who have been shot in the head and survived. A Warrior’s Faith captures the essence of Ryan Job. From his hysterical dry wit to his relentless Overcome mindset that I have built my own life around. Robert Vera did a great job telling Ryan’s story of faith. It is a story that will motivate and inspire, have you laughing and crying, and more than anything, bring you to understand the caliber of man in his walk of faith.
Jason Redman – US Navy SEAL (Retired) and author of The Trident – The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader -- Jason Redman
Robert Vera really captures the intensity of the medical and combat situation in Ramadi in 2006. When one reads his account, one feels that he is actually there, in Charlie Medical, with the doctors and medics who fought to save lives. I should know, because I was.
-Zack Kitchen, retired military physician and author of 'The Unbeliever.' -- Zack Kitchen
Ryan Job was an inspiration to Chris Kyle. Ryan's death and that of Marc Lee were two of the most important reasons he asked me to help him write American Sniper. Until I read the 'A Warrior's Faith' I really never understood the depth of that inspiration. Spiritual, compelling and true to the SEALs core belief: Never Quit. A must read! -- Scott McEwen
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ryan Job, Navy SEAL, was gravely injured by a sniper in Ramadi. His head wounds resulted in total blindness. This book tells the story of Ryan’s training to be a SEAL, demonstrating his character by enduring more and worse than most in order to qualify. After his near-fatal injury, Ryan slowly recovers and eventually marries. Ryan determines to be the best blind man he can be. He pursues athletics and friendships, eventually scaling Mount Rainier with the help of his friends and teammates. If you are curious about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL or what they are like, this book will fill in the gaps for you. If you want to read about an exemplary young man whose character was revealed in the crucible, this book is for you. If you want to be encouraged by a noble story, this book is for you. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.
A Warrior’s Faith is a well written and thoughtful portrayal of Ryan Job’s service to the United States as a Navy Seal. Vera does a masterful job of detailing the personal consequences of Job’s service to his country and fellow Seals. As a history teacher and a Christian, I found the storyline to be compelling and arresting. We are introduced to Ryan Job and the author while they are on a hike sponsored by Camp Patriot for wounded veterans. The difficulty of that hike for a blind veteran is indicative of the grit of Job and his story. Throughout the book; Vera makes reference to the contrast between the biblical story of Job and the contemporary account of Ryan Job’s trials and triumphs. This comparison is done with compassion, humor, and in a very matter of fact way. Seemingly like the way Ryan Job came face to face with a radically transformed life due to the nature of his injuries. Each of us will go through life at our own pace, but no one is totally independent. Vera explains throughout the narrative how he came along side Job, that it was a God thing, leaving a successful and apparently secure financial career. Like the disciple Peter who steps out of a boat by faith to walk with Jesus on the water, Vera stepped out by faith and walked along side Ryan Job. Vera humbly recounts the struggles of assisting a blind man and with humor sheds light on the transformation that took place in Job’s life as a result of a sniper’s bullet that found its target on a roof top in Ramadi, Iraq. “A Warrior’s Faith” is a story of the transforming power of faith. The author of the biblical book, Hebrews, tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Our lives are faith journeys; and Vera powerfully and personally shares his faith journey with us on the pages of his book. Vera gives the reader a look behind the headlines that captivate for only a moment, thus providing us with a simple, no nonsense look into the brief but important life of an American hero: Ryan Job. (reviewed by Ken Delorge, Principal, ACS) DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Blogging for Books on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.