When his best friend Adam was killed in the Twin Towers on 9/11 the life of Ryan Means was changed forever. Ryan was 27 years old at the time, single and living a relatively carefree lifestyle in New York City. Over the next year or so Ryan did an awful lot of soul-searching and came to the conclusion that he wanted to do something with his life that would make a difference. At the same time, he was bound and determined to avenge the loss of his friend. From the time he was a little kid Ryan had always been interested in all things military. Finally, in 2004, at the ripe old age of 30 Ryan Means made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army. He wanted to be a Green Beret. This would be no easy task as he would be competing for the few available slots with young men ten years his junior. In much the same way the life of a young lady named Heather would be transformed forever by a chance encounter with this same Ryan Means on a warm summer morning in August 2005 at a motel parking lot in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Although a bit overwhelmed by the force of Ryan's personality at first it would quickly become apparent that Ryan Means and Heather were made for each. The story of the incredible relationship that they would forge is the subject of Heather Means' compelling new book "My Special Force: The Warrior Who Taught Me the Meaning of Life and Love". This is a truly an unforgettable saga of two incredibly special people and the obstacles they would face over the next few years. I simply could not put this book down.
Clearly this Ryan Means was a very special young man. It is easy to see why "Heatwave" (Ryan's nickname for Heather) would fall in love with him. Ryan was thoughtful, lots of fun, honest, hard-working and incredibly focused. He knew what he wanted and he went after it. After entering the Army Ryan took the time on a regular basis to update friends and family on what was going on in this life via e-mail. How many guys would take the time to do that? Many of these e-mails have been included in "My Special Force". They were give you an insight into the character of this man. After meeting Heather, Ryan would keep in constant touch with her. There was little doubt in Ryan's mind that this was the lady that he wanted to marry and be the mother of his children. Yet Ryan had no illusions. He was painfully aware of the sacrifices that Heather would be required to make as the wife of an oft deployed military man. In several touching e-mails to Heather over the next couple of years he warned her about the loneliness and uncertainties she would face. Yet their relationship persevered and finally in 2007 the couple tied the knot in an impromptu wedding before a justice-of-the peace. A baby girl and a new home would soon follow. All seemed right with the world for Ryan and Heather Means.
The second half of "My Special Force" deals with "The Call" that Ryan made to Heather in the early morning hours of May 29, 2009 and all of the events that followed. Ryan had been on deployment in Iraq for quite some time and had not been feeling well. What Ryan had to tell Heather on that fateful night was positively devastating. He had contracted liver cancer and was given a mere 30 days to live. Put yourself in Heather's place. One can only imagine the paralyzing emotions that overcame her at that moment. Her beloved Ryan was half a world away and had been given a medical death sentence and right now she could do absolutely nothing for him. Furthermore there was their young daughter and another child on the way who would be forced to grow up without a dad. It was all too much for Heather and Ryan's close-knit family to bear. The final chapters of the book are devoted to Ryan's epic struggle to beat the misfortune that had befallen him. Once he got back to the States he would be shuffled from one medical facility to another. As you might expect there were lots of doctors and medical procedures to endure but happily there were also a few times that Ryan rallied and was actually able to leave the hospital for short periods of time and go out with his young wife. The courage exhibited by both Ryan and Heather during this incredibly difficult time was nothing short of amazing.
I give Heather Means all the credit in the world for having the courage to tell her story in "My Special Force: The Warrior Who Taught Me the Meaning of Live and Love". She bears her soul for the whole world to see in this book. The deep-seated love she had for her warrior husband and the incredible pain she experienced in losing him at such a young age is certain to leave an indelible mark on you. Ryan Means made a difference in the lives of just about everyone he encountered in his life. Some may think that "My Special Force" is a book written mostly for women. I heartily disagree. I challenge the men out there to give this book a try. You will not be disappointed. This is an exceptionally well-written book and the story is one that you will never forget. Very highly recommended!
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
A modern day tale of love and war, My Special Force is the true story of a military widow's relationship with her beloved husband and the lifelong impact he made on those around him. Weaving together the letters they wrote to each other while he was stationed in Iraq with her own story, Heather, now a single mother, tells the story of Ryan Means, whose zest for life, bravery, and indomitable spirit changed her forever. After losing his best friend in the September 11 tragedy, thirty year-old Ryan leaves his old life in New York behind to join up with the Special Forces where he meets Heather while in training. After multiple deployments and two lonely pregnancies, Heather must summon unthinkable reserves of strength when Ryan is given thirty days to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just weeks before the birth of his second child. In this universal story of patriotism, courage, and what it means to be truly transformed by the person you love, we get the devastating yet inspiring story of one single mother's story of what it means to have known and loved a warrior.
Heather Means lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her two daughters, Elizabeth and Sophie Ryan. In the wake of her husband's death, she aspires to raise awareness of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Wounded Warrior Program.