Three Wise Men: A Navy SEAL, a Green Beret, and How Their Marine Brother Became a War’s Sole Survivor by Beau Wise and Tom Sileo. Macmillan, 2021, 304 pp.
Three Wise Men is a powerful story about a family and their sons who make the decision to serve their country in the armed forces and how the family supported them throughout the journey. It is heart-wrenching and sad but worth the time to read. The authors wrote the book to bring the story to life, enabling the reader to imagine what life was like for the Wise brothers during their deployments.
Beau Wise, one of the authors and the youngest brother, provides insight into the story, bringing a different perspective to describe the Wise family and the relationship between him and his siblings, Jeremy, Ben, and Heather, who were ten, seven, and five years older than him. The storyline uses the dynamics of the family to lay the foundation for the rest of the book and the decisions of the Wise brothers to join the military.
Ben, the middle brother, starts the journey with his decision to join the Army and enter the Rangers, causing both his older and younger brothers to question his rationale and revealing a patriotic streak that would influence both to follow him into the military. The story continues with the attacks on September 11, 2001, and his family’s reaction to having one son in the military, along with the decision of their oldest son, Jeremy, to leave medical school and join.
As the older brother, Jeremy looked out for his younger brothers growing up, but in this case, Ben’s pursuit of Ranger school was an influencing factor on Jeremy committing to a naval special operations (SEAL) career path. Beau describes Jeremy’s perseverance in overcoming the challenges and obstacles of training to reach his goal of earning the SEAL Trident emblem and becoming a big brother for younger SEALs. At the same time, Ben deploys to Iraq and endures the hardships of war, then shifts into Army Special Operations (Green Berets) because of the inspiration of his big brother’s journey.
The book completes the Wise brothers’ journey into the military with Beau joining the Marine Corps and deploying to Afghanistan. While he is deployed there, Jeremy leaves the Navy and becomes a contractor and also deploys to Afghanistan. Beau describes Jeremy’s transition from the Navy SEALs to becoming a contractor for an organization that worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He describes the work that Jeremy and the other contractors who had also been part of the military’s special operations forces did at the base they were deployed at in Afghanistan. Beau also describes his deployment to Afghanistan at the same time Jeremy was there and how he received the news of Jeremy’s death while he was deployed. He continues with the story of his flight home and the family’s trip to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and their meeting with the CIA officials regarding Jeremy’s death and those who were serving with him. He describes his brother’s memorial service in Virginia Beach where Jeremy had been stationed when he was in the Navy. The description of the memorial service and the words spoken by the service members who were on Jeremy’s SEAL team show the impact he had on his fellow team members and how he looked out for them and was a mentor and a leader.
Beau describes his brothers as engaging in a fight between good and evil. He writes about Ben finding Afghan civilian women and children in a cave. He tells how Ben told them that they were safe and how they were escorted to safety. He then continues with the details of Ben and his Special Forces team’s operations. Beau writes that Ben was now coming closer to the fight that our nation had been engaged in since September 2001, just like his brother two and half years earlier.
Beau writes how his brother had hoped that one day the people of Afghanistan would be able to forge their own path without suffering under the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. This is the prelude to the description and details of Ben’s last mission. The camaraderie and kinship between the members of the unit come through in the writing. The courage and strength of Ben and the men he served with are an important aspect of their time in Afghanistan. Ben’s last mission was in the Balkh Province. His unit was split up to execute the mission more successfully, and Ben was paired with some Afghan soldiers whom the US Army was hoping to train to help it continue the fight. The details of Ben’s last mission provide an insightful look at the obstacles our soldiers faced when fighting the enemy. Even though Ben had helped one of the Afghan soldiers who were wounded on the mission, the ones who were with him when he was shot ran away, and it was up to the other two Army soldiers to wait until the gunfire had ceased before they were able to go in and help him.
Beau continues the story by describing how he and his wife made the trip to Washington to help Ben’s wife and how he was the one who took the phone calls from the medical staff at the hospital in Germany. He writes about how he accompanied Ben’s wife on the trip to Europe to get to the hospital where Ben was being treated. The book presents the description and details regarding Ben’s injuries and the decisions that his wife had to make in such a way that the reader is brought into the story and can imagine what the family went through.
The Wise family is a strong clan, and their service and sacrifice should never be forgotten. Three Wise Men should be on the bookshelf of any family with relatives in the military or those considering service to America. It is heartfelt and full of discussion about the honor, courage, and commitment of three young Americans.
Steven M. Guiliani