Chuck Pfarrer feels no remorse for the men he has killed. "There are some people who need to go to hell and stay there," he writes. In Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SEAL, the former commando recalls lethal encounters in clandestine assaults against enemy forces throughout the world. His observation that "operations very seldom go as you think they will" was affirmed in Lebanon, where his unit was assigned to a purportedly safe mission as peacekeepers but instead found that "violence was the overwhelming reality." He quickly abandoned atheism. Pfarrer gives shell-by-shell and grenade-by-grenade accounts of firefights in Beirut, where in a six-month tour of duty he and his men participated in more than 100 rescue and reconnaissance missions. He was only 500 yards from the terrorist explosion that killed 241 Marines in what arguably ranks as the most humiliating U.S. military loss since Pearl Harbor. He recollects the grim aftermath of the disaster, which Ronald Reagan in his autobiography termed the "greatest sorrow" of his presidency.
In detailing the training program of the SEALs (an acronym for Sea, Air, Land), Pfarrer says it is designed to flunk applicants so that only the toughest men mentally and physically can survive. One requirement: trainees must swim 400 yards, retrieve a face mask from the bottom with their teeth, and then tread water for 40 minutes all while their hands and feet are tied together with parachute cord. Especially absorbing is Pfarrer's handling of Stan, a platoon member who was on the verge of freaking out and thus imperiling the safety of his buddies. In dealing with Stan, Pfarrer finds himself confronting his own fear. Pfarrer also discusses his marital infidelities and his bout with cancer, which ironically struck after he sensing he had "used up all of my luck" left the military. He became a prominent Hollywood screenwriter, with The Jackal, Hard Target and, not surprisingly, Navy SEALs among his credits. This book demonstrates that he writes just as well for the printed page as he does for the movies.