Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
A Memoir About What Happens After a Miracle
By Mike Day
With Robert Vera
Foreword by Admiral William H. McRaven
Formats and Prices
- Hardcover $28.00 $35.00 CAD
- ebook $14.99 $19.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 9, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
The events in this book are all true.
Parts of my story have been retold publicly by third parties in books, in the Hollywood film Act of Valor, and in various media reports. Prior to the release of these books, media reports, and film, I was never consulted, nor did I provide any details about my story to any of these third-party reports. The complete firsthand account of what happened to me and my SEAL platoon on April 6 and 7, 2007, and the events before and after that time, have never been released until now. I have constructed the dialogue from various sources, including my own memory. Thus, the dialogue may not be exactly word for word; however, the meaning of what was said is accurate. Lastly, for security reasons I have changed the names of many of the key people and places in this story.
If you’re really lucky in life, you will have an opportunity to meet someone like Mike Day. Someone who has overcome so many challenges, whose spirit seems unbreakable, whose heroism is matched only by their humility and whose compassion for their fellow warriors knows no limits.
I first met Mike in 1994, when I was the new commanding officer of SEAL Team 3 in Coronado, California. Every morning the entire team would muster for physical training (PT) on the grinder, a large patch of asphalt behind the headquarters building. Gathering in a circle, we would do our calisthenics for an hour and then go for a long run or tackle a grueling obstacle course. But the daily ritual on the grinder was much more than just doing PT. It was where the team came together to test one another—to find one another’s weaknesses and exploit them to the amusement of everyone else. It was a full-on, testosterone-raging alpha-male harassment session that left no one unscathed, including the commanding officer. It was also the place where I could measure the morale of the team. It was where you quickly assessed who were the leaders in the command and who were the followers—who was respected and who was left wanting.
It didn’t take me long to see that Mike Day was one of the leaders, and, even though quite junior at the time, he was highly respected by his fellow SEALs. Mike had a wicked sense of humor and a quick wit that he used to great effect on the other members of the team. But he was equally self-effacing and was more often to be the butt of his own jokes. Mike was the guy you wanted in your SEAL platoon. He always had a smile on his face, always laughing about something. Always willing to help. And always taking the jobs no one else wanted. He was the perfect SEAL swim buddy.
Mike eventually transferred to the Navy parachute team, and, just as he was regarded during his time at SEAL Team Three, he was universally liked and respected by the other SEALs. As I moved on and Mike transferred to another command, I lost track of him.
Fifteen years later, as I stood outside the Intensive Care Unit at the military hospital in Landsthul, Germany, I wondered how much Mike Day might have changed. He had just been AIREVACed from Iraq after having been shot twenty-seven times by al-Qaida fighters. As I walked into his room, struggling with what I might say to a man so badly injured, I heard Mike yell from his bedside, “Hey, Skipper! What the hell are you doing here?” A big smile came across his face, then he laughed and motioned me to his bedside. Looking down at his body, I was stunned at what I saw. Hardly an inch of his flesh wasn’t covered with bullet holes. In all my years of talking to wounded soldiers in the ICU, I had never seen anyone so badly shot up. He was as animated as always—harassing me about our time at SEAL Team Three and laughing about his current situation. I knew that morphine and life-saving drugs were pulsing through his veins and I guessed that he would never remember our conversation. He soon fell back to sleep, and I left him to rest.
Mike returned to the States and, over the years, I watched as he recovered from his wounds. Little did I know at the time that Mike’s trauma went much deeper than just the bullet holes in his body.
Perfectly Wounded is a raw, uncensored look at one man’s survival from a childhood of pain and unspeakable horrors to a life of service, a legacy of remarkable courage and unwavering commitment, and, above all, duty to others. Mike Day’s life will not be defined by his wounds, seen or unseen, but by how he coped with their aftermath. It will not be defined by that fateful day in Iraq, but by the life that followed and countless wounded warriors he helped. This book is for every man and woman who struggles in life and is looking for how best to overcome the challenges with dignity, honor, and compassion. This book is for everyone.
Admiral William H. McRaven
(U.S. Navy, Retired)
Recollections from Lt. Chris Tyll, Navy SEAL
I was a newly minted Navy SEAL officer when I arrived in Iraq and met Mike Day. He was the chief, the senior enlisted guy in Foxtrot platoon. I was assigned to Echo, our sister platoon. Chief Day was hard, even by Navy SEAL standards, and repetition was his brand: he would have us all do ball-busting training over and over again, and just when you thought you were done for the day, he would say, “Let’s do it again.”
It would be a big mistake to believe that Chief Day was not prepared for anything; to him, that mind-set seemed amateurish. Mike Day was prepared for everything, and he was going to be absolutely sure that you were prepared too. While others trained hard, Chief Day worked at a different level. He made us all raise our game, and he did so not with orders or yelling—it was far worse than that. He did it by example. This “old man” of thirty-eight years was out there grinding with all the young Navy SEAL studs; he was up at the front and he was pushing everyone far beyond their breaking points. Don’t misunderstand me—he did yell, but rarely, and only when you pissed him off, usually because you did something stupid. Then his blue eyes would light up like lasers and lock on their target, and then he’d tear into you. Everything stopped; there was silence, except for Chief Day, who seemed to be yelling at a frequency that shut out all other sounds, because we could all hear him loud and clear. A Chief Day berating was impactful because he was impactful; in that moment when he was a few feet from your face, there was nobody who could have been more influential than Mike Day. Not the president of the United States, not the secretary of defense, not even an admiral. Mike Day’s authority and credibility far exceeded his rank. He may not have known it, but we all did.
Of all my time in the military, I can say that Mike Day’s SEAL platoon was the best group of guys I ever worked with. They were total professionals, with a work ethic that was second to none. We had highly educated guys who could run, swim, and fight. They were all professional warfighters. The guys Mike Day trained with would later be assigned to other teams, and all of them would better their new teams with their presence. They would take care of their teammates just like Mike took care of us. They would stack up awards, and one would later earn the military’s highest recognition: the Medal of Honor. I believe Mike did it because he loved us—we were his “other” family. What he wanted most was for all of his teammates to get home—that’s why he hammered us. He was preparing us to face the demons that he already knew too well. After his war ended, his wounds not yet fully healed, he went straight back into the fight, taking care of his fellow warriors and their families as a case manager at the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Care Coalition. He would battle the bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration and other agencies to ensure his fellow warriors received the best possible care. When Mike Day entered the fight, the odds changed, because he was willing and able to out-suffer, outfight, and outlast everyone. Even this story is Mike’s attempt to honor and care for others. Mike Day’s survival and his entire story are beyond belief—his experience and being with him during it marked a turning point in my own life.
In the Navy SEAL community, Mike Day is a legend, a giant who walks among giants.
There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.
—Fred Rogers, The World According
to Mister Rogers
SEAL Team 4, Foxtrot Platoon
Modern warfare is impersonal and fought over long distances. Pilots who drop bombs and shoot guns from their aircraft seldom see their enemies up close. It’s a rare event when combatants fight each other so near that you can smell your enemy’s body odor. I have seen my enemies up close, in small rooms; I have seen their faces as we each did our best to kill each other. I have seen their final expressions frozen in time after bullets from my weapon struck their bodies.
I had been a Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) for nearly eighteen years when I arrived in Iraq in October 2006. I had already been on hundreds of missions with various SEAL platoons. This last platoon, SEAL Team 4, Foxtrot, was the best I’d ever worked with: a serious, disciplined, and highly skilled group of SEALs, all of us in great shape. We were at the top of the warrior food chain. Together we were lethal. We moved, communicated, and shot with the flawless precision of a symphony orchestra. We were a lethal war-fighting organism able to seek out, capture, and destroy the enemy, anywhere.
Second Iraq Deployment—SEAL Team 4, 3 Troop, Foxtrot Platoon
As a chief, and a senior guy on the team, one of my main responsibilities was to schedule, track, and coordinate our team’s pre-deployment work-ups. This process took about eighteen months. It’s broken into three phases and starts with a list of specific requirements of all the skills and equipment needed to deploy in order to follow through on our assignment. Not many people outside the SEAL community understand the volume and intensity of training that every SEAL undergoes during his career. BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training is very basic—it’s the lowest possible hurdle to cross to get onto the teams. Being a SEAL is a never-ending education. You are either fighting or training to fight.
This is where real training starts. There are three specific new layers of pre-deployment training. The first is professional development, then Unit Level Training, and finally Task Group Training. My role was to make sure all our guys were individually trained and cross-trained in various skill sets. Breachers, snipers, medics, drivers, radio operators, drone pilots, or whatever else the mission called for: I made sure our guys had the training. After everyone qualified and returned from training, I helped coordinate the six-month block of Unit Level Training and then the final six-month block of Task Group Training, where we brought everyone together to practice with all of the various pieces of the puzzle in place. Once all the training was complete, we loaded up and flew to Iraq to go to war.
Camp Fallujah, Iraq
There are very few times in life when the right group of people all meet at the right time. Most will never experience how it feels to be part of a team with exceptional people who are fully committed to each other and the mission. In all my years in the Navy, of all the platoons I’ve been a part of, SEAL Team 4, Foxtrot platoon was the best platoon I got to work with, hands down. The leadership was shrewd, mission-focused, and worked like animals alongside all the guys.
Our young SEALs—Clarkie, Micky, Jamie, and the others—were excellent operators, already seasoned well beyond their years. We had other guys assigned to us who were practically wizards—like Davidson, a Navy communications tech. This kid could make crazy sophisticated electronic tools using stuff like a broomstick and a piece of wire. He used his skills and tools to guide us through mazes of streets and alleys in the pitch dark, placing us directly on our targets within 95 percent accuracy.
When I arrived in Fallujah, the very first thing I did was figure out who owned the battle space. There is a process to war that includes extensive coordination and deconfliction between forces. We are all professional warfighters and as such we don’t just start driving around a war zone shooting off weapons. Iraq was broken up into big chunks, and different branches of the U.S. military controlled different areas. Our district of Fallujah was run by the Marines. I was rummaging through some papers in our command shed looking for a list of contacts for the various commands on our base when I came across an old two-page phone list stuffed in a plastic sleeve. War includes constant turnover of people, units, and commands. It requires constant communication and relationship building to keep current with everything happening in the battle space. I started making calls attempting to learn who was in control of our sector. Most of the numbers didn’t work, but I kept dialing, crossing them off as I went down the list. Finally, I dialed one that connected me to a Marine Corps colonel’s office. Bingo! I explained who I was and that my team was new in town and was here to support them. The colonel welcomed the help and provided details on how to get missions submitted and approved.
While marines and soldiers patrolled the streets during the day, the SEALs used a sophisticated system to develop and cross-check specific targets. We would get approval to go after high-value targets late at night to either capture or kill them. In most cases, we captured targets because they would give us more useful intel, and most were Sunni. Many of these detainees would offer us valuable intel if we promised not to turn them over to our Iraqi colleagues, most of whom were Shia and many of whose families had been murdered by Sunnis.
Iraq’s Al Anbar Province was Sunni turf: the Sunnis didn’t like us, as they believed we were allied with their Shia enemy. I guess I can understand why, as nearly all our Iraqi army scouts were Shia. The younger guys in Foxtrot seemed to understand that this was a critical time in history.
I remember the first day training our group of fifty new Iraqi army recruits. I asked them to do ten push-ups—and most of them quit in protest, reducing our group of fifty to ten in under a minute. We trained up the ones who stayed and took pretty good care of them.
We were operating in Fallujah, a city in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. The triangle is a densely populated region of Iraq inhabited mostly by Sunni Muslims that spans more than 2,700 miles, with boundaries extending from the densely populated cities of Baghdad to the east, Ramadi to the west, and Tikrit to the north. Fallujah, located about halfway between Baghdad and Ramadi, had recently seen an influx of Sunni foreign fighters and insurgents. These groups would launch attacks on us, Iraqi police stations, and on other targets under the cover of the local Sunni population. We didn’t care much about the Sunni–Shia scrap; we just wanted to get in, do the work, and get out.
Iraq was full of bad guys controlling different parts of the country. The military intelligence community came up with decks of cards containing the faces of the most wanted terrorists in each region. It was like a baseball card collection of evil players, ranked based on their priority of capture. We hunted for the fifty-two most wanted bad guys in Al Anbar Province. When we arrived in country, there were forty-eight still at large; four of them had been captured or killed before we got there. It took a couple weeks to figure out the Marines’ mission-approval process. The Marines had a different set of procedures for mission write-up requests: we once had a mission request denied because I used the wrong font in my PowerPoint. I’m sure that there were lots of good reasons for using a particular font, but I was not privy to any of them. I changed the font and the mission was approved.
The Marines are locked down, they are always good to go, they shoot straight, are excellent war fighters, and are disciplined. It was great working side by side with them. They take immense pride in everything that they do, including conditioning and appearance. Their officers would get upset with us for coming into their chow hall all dirty and bloody the morning after our night ops. War is already extremely stressful, and countless rules, regulations, and demands can add to the stress. From our standpoint, it seemed inconsequential that we walked into the chow hall hungry and tired in our dirty clothes after eight hours of risking our lives hunting and killing bad guys. However, from the Marines’ point of view, orders were orders, and it was not about our dirty uniforms—they didn’t want us setting a precedent and influencing their young marines. I had to continually balance this tension to defuse the stress. I’m more of a “creative thinker,” and while I always acknowledged the rules, I interpreted them a little differently, depending on the situation. It was fortunate that I landed in the Navy and the SEAL teams; they gave me just enough latitude to develop my leadership skills.
Early on in the deployment, we snatched up three or four bad guys and were driving back to the base with our cargo. It was well past the 11:00 p.m. curfew, and we were using our night-vision goggles instead of headlights to see. Our six vehicles were blacked out and moving fast down a narrow road when we rolled up on three guys armed with AK-47s strapped to their backs. That’s how the enemy operated most of the time—in three-man cells. One guy would plant the bomb while the other two acted as lookouts. One of the guys was planting an IED (improvised explosive device) in the road about twenty feet ahead of us. His two buddies bolted when they saw us, almost too late. They ran down an alley between some houses and melted back into the fabric of Fallujah. I let our 50-gunner open up on the remaining enemy IED planter. Our guy shot four rounds from his M2 Browning .50 caliber belt-fed machine gun. Every fourth round in the belt was a Raufoss Mk 211 multipurpose high-explosive incendiary round. This sucker packs a punch and will drill through tank armor. The fourth round hit the guy in the upper right leg and blew it clean off. I watched his leg fly off his body and cartwheel in the air. I didn’t see exactly where it landed, but it was far from where it came off. I decided that it was best to get us out of the area as fast as possible, but I do believe we neutralized that IED tech.
Our tempo was nearly nonstop. We only had time to go on missions, eat, try to get some sleep, and work out. It was a rare occasion when we had the time to “entertain” guests. We had one United Service Organizations (USO) celebrity visitor: the one and only Chuck Norris. Our higher-ups told us he was coming, and on the day of, he never showed. We all gave up and went to bed. I noticed that someone had written Chuck Norris was here in the portable toilet outside the chow hall. The Chuck Norris was here phrase is popular graffiti in dive bars, bathroom stalls, and elsewhere Chuck Norris has never been.
The next morning, someone came to wake me up and let me know that Chuck Norris was waiting in our team ready room. I was the first to arrive. I shook his hand and said, “You’re late.” We chatted for a few minutes; then I asked him if he had recently visited the toilet near the chow hall. He said no. When the other guys arrived, we took pictures, told some war stories, and he wrote Chuck Norris was here on our team room wall. He is a great guy and patriot, and he looked in great shape for a dude in his sixties. We all appreciated him visiting. The man is the epitome of “badass.” The guys I worked with actually embodied Chuck’s persona more than the man himself did.
An Army general also paid us a visit and gave us kudos for our work. Then he said, “If there’s anything you guys need, let me know.”
I raised my hand. “Yes, sir, we really could use some miniguns and a few RG-31s.” I remembered from my first deployment to Iraq how effective a minigun was and thought it would be a good idea to have a few now, just in case. And the RG-31 is a V-hull-shaped multipurpose IED-resistant beast of a vehicle. I saw one take an IED blast that would have made mulch out of our Humvees, and the RG-31 and all its occupants survived. I guess the general’s statement was more rhetorical, though, because everyone turned and looked at me, kind of stunned, and the general didn’t respond. I was totally serious—if I ever need to go back to war, it will be in an RG-31 with a few miniguns.
We had a very strong working relationship with our young Iraqi scouts. This was partly due to money. When we learned that our scouts were having problems getting paid, we took it upon ourselves to have a private chat with their commander to help clear up his confusion. After our informal “audit,” their payroll glitch was fixed. From that point forward, our Iraqi trainees trusted us more than their own command. In my experience, effective leadership is not about telling people what to do, or using people to achieve your own personal goals; this type of leadership backfires and people will either leave, find a way to leave, or do the opposite of what they are asked to do until they leave. I have come to learn that the most effective leaders build trust and legitimacy with everyone around them.
This is what our platoon did with our new Iraqi scouts. We spent hours training them. When we saw the condition of their barracks, the boys rallied together and helped the scouts do some much-needed renovations. Our platoon would hang out with them and drink tea. It was not forced: we took care of them because we cared about them. In their eyes, we became legitimate allies. Trust builds legitimacy, and trust is the currency of every effective leader. I could see the changes—over the course of a few months, these guys, who could have once been our enemies, trusted and liked us. Our young Iraqi scouts began emulating our guys, wearing wraparound sunglasses and their ball caps backward like we did. They came up with a unit name—Scorpions—and their own patch. It was cool. I wore their Iraqi flag on one arm and an American flag on the other; they loved it. Before we could lead, help, or teach them, they needed to trust us. They needed to feel safe with us. Trust and leadership work the same way in every workplace. However, I have come to learn that the most unfortunate part about trust is that some people in charge don’t realize that people don’t trust them.
One night we received intel that guy number four in our Deck of Cards had been spotted. We told the guys to saddle up, then Jack and I drove across the base to spin up our Iraqi trainees. We all loaded into two choppers and took off after Number Four. It was a fifteen-minute flight to the target, and Davidson had us locked on to the location. We put down close to the house, the choppers doing a touch-and-go, and twenty of us bolted out and took up positions around the house. It was pitch-dark, and once the choppers departed, the only sounds were a few barking dogs.
I found a door, cracked it open, and peeked in. There were seven men all sleeping on floor mats. Some had their AKs beside them; others had the barrels of their guns resting on their leg or stomach. There were dogs barking and helicopters flying, and I could not believe that they were still sound asleep. I whispered into my radio, “Two guys on each one of them, then we’ll wake them up.” We filed in the room and set up over each one of the snoozers. One of our guys at the head, another at the feet, weapons ready.
We would wake them all simultaneously with a tap on the head. “On my barrel nod, wake ’em up,” I whispered.
CLONK. I poked my sleeping terrorist in the forehead with the tip of my M4 rifle. He was stunned; it took him a few seconds to realize he was awake and that I was now his living nightmare. He also knew that his career as a terrorist had abruptly ended; he was caught red-handed with his band of narcoleptic thugs. I would place their ages between nineteen and thirty; some of them were crying. But our target, the Number Four bad guy in Al Anbar, was not among them. We quickly learned his possible location after a couple brief discussions with his buddies. We cuffed our cargo and marched through the village to where they said our Deck of Cards target was held up. All of us just walked down the road under the glowing yellow streetlights while wild packs of dogs barked at us. That’s the odd thing about humans—we become desensitized to the familiar. I learned in Iraq that if we tried to shoot out streetlights or quiet the barking dogs, it would wake people up. Uncommon distractions, not familiar ones, are what alert humans.
We walked right to the front door. Once there, we set up security, opened the door, walked in, and there he was, sound asleep—the fourth-most-wanted guy in the Deck of Cards. He reeked of stale cigarettes, BO, and some cheap cologne he probably thought covered up his stench. We snatched him up, secured the area, and called in the birds for extraction. We quickly stuffed everyone into two choppers and took off. I’m not sure what happened to any of our detainees from that operation.
We had been in Fallujah for nearly six months and would end up conducting a total of 140 direct-action missions. In the first four months of the deployment, Clarkie, Micky, and Jamie would frequently ask, “Hey, Chief, we got anything going on tonight?” They were bangry—half bored, half angry. Guys like us would much rather be shot at than suffer boredom. We SEALs are all so alike. I wanted to quit Navy boot camp on a daily basis because of the mind-numbing boredom. If you are fortunate enough to have a long military career, it will condition you to accept all kinds of dullness, to the point where you end up finding other productive things to do while you’re hurrying up and waiting.
- "A memoir that goes beyond war -- one that shares a story of awe-inspiring resiliency, courage, healing, and love on a thousand levels."—Major Scott A. Huesing, USMC (Ret.), bestselling Author of Echo in Ramadi
- "PERFECTLY WOUNDED is an incredible story, perfectly told. Mike Day not only takes the reader inside the life of a Navy SEAL, he expertly takes the reader inside the mind of a trauma survivor, as well. He does this without darkness or foreboding, and capably illustrates the meaning behind my favorite sentence in the book: 'I have come to understand that if the experience of war does not profoundly alter you in some way, then you may actually have a problem.'"—Jason Kander, New York Times bestselling author of Outside the Wire
- "Mike Day is the living embodiment of the American fighting spirit, a true warrior who exemplifies intestinal fortitude, drive, and compassion. This book is a genuine display of the kind of 'never quit, no matter the odds' attitude that simply cannot be taught. PERFECTLY WOUNDED is the story of an American hero who always stayed in the fight, no matter what was thrown at him."—D. McBurnett, US Navy SEAL (Ret.), author of Uncommon Grit: A Photographic Journey Through Navy SEAL Training
- "Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike Day's battlefield incident showed tremendous courage, epitomizing the warrior ethos, but his real story of strength, honor, and bravery comes after his incident in the Anbar Province of Iraq. His tremendous intestinal fortitude and resiliency to not only overcome his serious injuries, but to then go on advocating the power of resiliency to those who need it most, is remarkable to say the least. He made the Special Operations Community proud by his actions on April 6th, 2007, but his ability to heal and his continued altruistic actions since that day should make all who live in this great nation even prouder."—Kris "Tanto" Paronto, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, bestselling author of The Patriot's Creed
- "Inspiring...Readers interested in care programs for returning veterans will find Day's account invaluable."—Kirkus (Starred Review)
- "Mike Day is a walking miracle."—CBN News
- On Sale
- Jun 9, 2020
- Page Count
- 240 pages