It is impossible to walk this journey without journeying into oneself. This book is one man’s story of how he found peace along the pilgrimage to Santiago. It is the honest story of a stiff, formal, no nonsense Senior Chief Petty Officer of the US Navy – someone who’d spent years building walls inside himself to compartmentalise the violence and tragedies that had been part of his 22-year military life. Once he left the service he found himself descending into a dark depressive hole without purpose, identity or mission in life. In his own words, he discovered “I fit in….nowhere”.
Brad talks about the three things a veteran loses when he or she leaves the military – a sense of Purpose, a supportive Community and a feeling of Selfworth. Serving in uniform, soldiers give their all for their country – yet once their service is over many find themselves inadequately supported and unable to settle back into civilian life.
Brad’s pilgrimage along the Camino helped him change from being a totally military-minded, mission-oriented person trying to fight his demons and forget the images of war that kept haunting him – into a much calmer human being. Step by step as he walked along this 500-mile pilgrim trail, the walls of his negativity and his lack of faith in humanity began to crumble away and he discovered what many of us have done on this pilgrimage – it is impossible to walk this journey without journeying into oneself.
Having come through an internal storm Brad found himself at peace; he could forgive others and also himself. He began to make a purposeful effort to see the good and positive in the world rather than the dark cloud of negativity he’d been focusing on for so long.
Like the author, I too have served in the military and walked the Camino – so his story deeply touched me on many levels. I earnestly recommend this book and hope that reading it will encourage others, especially Veterans – those who “Once Were Warriors” – to consider undertaking a journey along the Camino. As both Brad and I did by walking the Camino, they will discover this pilgrimage to be Life-changing.