I am honored to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Michael Golembesky, author of “Level Zero Heroes”. Here is my review for “Level Zero Heroes” if you missed it!
Born in 1976, Michael moved from his home town of Levittown, Pennsylvania to Colorado in 1997 to begin a new life. There he worked as a truck driver for a local dairy before enlisting into the Marine Corps shortly after the events of 9/11 to help support the United States in the global war on terrorism.
Upon graduating MCRD San Diego in 2002, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines as a field artillery cannoneer, deploying to Okinawa (2003) and Iraq (2005) with Regimental Combat Team 2, where he served as a provisional rifle company squad leader.
Upon returning from Iraq, Sgt. Golembesky made a lateral move in primary MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) to become a Fire Support Man (0861). He served his following two deployments attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines as a forward observer and Fire Support Chief as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (2006) and Task Force 2/2 in Iraq (2008).
While on his second deployment in Iraq, SSgt. Golembesky was selected to become an aircraft controller with the newly formed Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC). He reported to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion in January, 2009 and immediately attended the Joint Terminal Attack Controller course in Norfolk, Va. After graduating and obtaining 8002 MOS, he was assigned as a team JTAC with Marine Special Operations Company G, Team 2. His fifth and final deployment was served in Afghanistan (RC-W) with Marine Special Operations Team 8222 from 2009 through 2010 in the Bala Murghab River Valley.
Honorably discharged in Oct. 2010 after eight years of military service, Michael, along with his wife Sabrina and daughter Devlyn, returned home to Colorado where he works as a defense contractor and writer.
Michael’s personal military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (Valor), two Navy and Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbons and the Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals.
Check out my interview with Michael and if you have not read this book, I highly recommend you do!!
Sierra: How did you begin writing “Level Zero Heroes”? Did you intend to become an author?
Michael: Becoming an author was probably the furthest thing from my mind. I started writing the book for myself, slowly building upon events from my memoir and emotions. After writing about 30k words I realized that this would make an amazing book.
Sierra: Considering the contents, where there any occupational hazards to writing this story?
Michael: No, not really. I wrote the book in my spare time as I juggled family life, being a father and working a fulltime day job.
Sierra: Who is your intended audience?
Michael: Anyone willing to take the time to read it. John Bruning and I wrote the book in a manner that would make it easy for non-military people to understand and enjoy it, because we wanted the message of the story to reach a larger audience than just military veterans.
Sierra: When working with different chains of command you describe in the book, how did you keep a strong hold on procedures? Especially when certain situations came to light that didn’t exactly sound logical to you.
Michael: I wrote the book in a way so not to draw any conclusions for the reader. All I could do was tell the story as it happened and let the reader decide what is right and wrong, good or bad.
Sierra: What was the hardest part in writing this book? Was it the real life situations you endured and put onto paper or something more?
Michael: I had most of the material collected before John and I even started writing the book. I guess the hardest part was making sure the book had a solid structure and flow to it. We wanted to keep the reader engaged and make the book hard to put down.
Sierra: What cultural value do you see in telling this story?
Michael: I wanted readers to finish ready the book feeling like they were a part of the story, not just looking in on it. Hopefully they walk away with a better understanding of modern warfare and the brutal reality that extreme Muslim ideology poses on the civilized world.
Sierra: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Did anyone discourage you from writing this story?
Michael: There were some people within the MARSOC community that didn’t want me to write this book but I told them the same thing I told everyone else that had an issue with it; I am not writing this book for them, I am writing for my fellow team members and they are the only ones I answer too.
Sierra: Tell us a little about your cover art. Who designed it and why did you choose that particular image? Was the image a photo that you collected from your service?
Michael: Lisa Pompilio at St. Martin’s Press can up with the final design, but it had been a work in progress for a year or so. I intentionally placed the original photo used on the cover inside of the book because I wanted readers to know that it is ‘real’, the look on Mark’s face is what war is and feels like.
Sierra: What inspires you as an author and a person?
Michael: Freedom and choice to aspire to be who you want to be, regardless of the events in your past. The future is as bright as you make it.
Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first book or getting it published that you would change?
Michael: Nothing. It was a lot of hard work and long hours but in the end, holding the book in my hands made it all worthwhile.
Sierra: What can we expect from you in the future that pertains to writing?
Michael: The future is wide open, but like I said, I never intend on become a writer. Maybe if people are really interested, perhaps there could be a follow-up to Level Zero Heroes that covers the rest of the deployment. We will see.
Sierra: Having seen your film, “Infil Exfil” which brings to light the mental struggle that goes on within all combat veterans, did this inspire you to write the book about your experiences in Bala Murghab?
Michael: I wouldn’t say directly but many of us veteran struggle with the same challenges after leaving a war zone. Hopefully this story and my success outside of the military helps to offer hope to someone who may be struggling with the change.
Sierra: After watching “Infil Exfil”, I have followed along with you via Facebook awaiting the release of your book. I am a dog lover and loved learning about your dog “Bear”. You write about him in the story of how you came to find him, or how he came to find you. In the book, you don’t exactly say how you brought “Bear” back to the states. From following your page, I learned about Nowzad, the non-profit organization who help soldiers get pets they have rescued while serving, back to the United States. Would you like to shed some light on the process you went through to get “Bear” to Colorado with you and your family?
Michael: It was a long process and took the help of many people. The first hurdle was raising about 3k to cover the travel and sheltering expenses for Bear’s trip to the states. I hitched a ride on an Italian helicopter to get him to Herat City where he was handed off to a local national that Nowzad had coordinated with. From there he traveled to Kabul, Flew to a shelter in Pakistan, where he stayed for about a month before making the long flight to New York. It took a lot of coordination and faith with Nowzad and other forgiven agencies to get him home, but well worth it.
Sierra: Michael, I cannot express how thankful I am for you to take the time to answer some of my questions. Not only that, I am honored to have gotten to read your book. Words cannot explain how a person feels after reading about such experiences and realizing exactly what it is that you men do for our freedom here in the United States. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Michael: We are thankful for all of our veterans, but it is the combat veterans that have endured the weight of war. The next time you meet a combat vet from Iraq or Afghanistan, shake their hand and offer to buy them a beer. -Ski