Just after 11 o’clock Sunday night, I began reading Billy Vaughn’s recently-released book, BETRAYED: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEAL’s Father. I had delayed looking inside the book Billy sent me for almost 36 hours, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down once I had begun.
Barely two and a half hours later, I had finished reading BETRAYED. Trying to summarize what I learned along the way is more difficult than I expected, so let me begin with the basics.
BETRAYED was released barely 27 months after 30 brave Americans — including the Vaughn’s son Aaron and too many other members of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six — died in Afghanistan in an incident that would be recorded as the single-largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare history. It delivers exactly what the subtitle of the book suggests (i.e., the shocking true story of “Extortion 17” as told by a Navy SEAL’s father).
Having previously read the heavily-redacted, 1,300-plus pages of the crash investigation report put together by officials at U.S. Central Command, I knew more than the average person about the official version of events related to the decision to put so many members of the Navy’s most-elite fighting force aboard a very old CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter — call sign “Extortion 17” — and about other factors that would change forever the way the Vaughns and other Gold Star family members remember Aug. 6, 2011. Combined with the additional facts and details Billy tells — including tough questions asked, answered and remaining in limbo — BETRAYED is a book that stirred my emotions in ways reminiscent of what I experienced while working on my first two nonfiction books, Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO.
While Billy’s writing style will never be confused with those of Vince Flynn or Tom Clancy, neither will those bestselling authors’ fictional tales compare to the gripping 248-page account of events as delivered by this Gold Star father.
If you’re looking for a book to read that will likely take you out of your comfort zone, I strongly recommend you read BETRAYED. If you need convincing still, one paragraph the author shared in the book’s prologue sums things up well:
I don’t want to write this book. As a father, reliving this is not a road I would ever choose to travel. But I have to write this book because we deserve to know the truth, the American people deserve answers and our government, steeped in denial, needs a wakeup call. — Billy Vaughn
FINAL THOUGHT: Because I’ve communicated with the Vaughns several times during the past six months and met them in person at an event in Fort Lauderdale five months ago, I feel like I know them fairly well. Now that I have finished reading BETRAYED, I feel like I know Aaron, too. For that and for their tremendous sacrifice, I say, “Thank you, Billy and Karen, and God bless you.”