Matt Eversmann served in the US Army for 20 years, and continues to serve today by telling the stories of America's first responders. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Matt Eversmann didn’t always plan to become a writer. Growing up, his dream was to pursue a life of military service. At 18, he joined the Army and soon found himself a member of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. While serving with 3rd Ranger Battalion in 1993, he was deployed to Somalia, where he led a squad of Rangers through Operation Gothic Serpent, better known as the Battle of Mogadishu or the “Black Hawk Down” incident. He survived the 18-hour firefight that cost 18 American lives and went on to serve another 15 years in the Army.
In 2004, Eversmann published his first book, titled The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts From the Men of Task Force Ranger. Despite the book’s success, Eversmann remained devoted to his military career. In 2007, he was deployed overseas again, this time to Iraq for a grueling 15-month tour with the 10th Mountain Division. That was his last big mission as a soldier, but after leaving the Army in 2008, he felt compelled to continue supporting those still serving and found that the best way for him to do that was through writing.
Eversmann is now the author of four books, three of which he co-authored with bestselling writer James Patterson. Last year, Eversmann published Walk in My Combat Boots, a collection of interviews with service members that paints a broad and comprehensive picture of life in the military. That book was also a big success, and he followed it with E.R. Nurses, a similar collection of interviews that examines the world of emergency medical care workers. His latest book, Walk the Blue Line, hitting shelves in January of 2023, uses the same format to explore the current state of law enforcement in America. Coffee or Die sat down with Eversmann to discuss his military career, his collaborations with Patterson, and why he considers nurses to be angels among us.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Matt Eversmann while deployed with the US Army. Photo courtesy of Eversmann Advisory.
COD: After the Battle of Mogadishu, you continued to serve in the Army for 20 years. How did your experience in Iraq compare to Somalia?
ME: When we were in Mogadishu, there was only one job that Task Force Ranger was doing: Capture or kill. That sounds so cliche these days, but that’s what we were doing in Somalia. Iraq was a completely different environment with an entirely different mission. We were trying to stop the sectarian violence between the Sunni and Shia while also trying to eliminate the al Qaeda threat in southwest Baghdad. We essentially had two competing missions going on simultaneously, so much of the time was spent conducting presence patrols to push the enemy out as opposed to targeting specific people. 2007 was a tough, tough time in Iraq. The threat of IEDs and rocket attacks were very real and far different than what we had in Mogadishu. So I kind of rounded out my combat experience and came away with the realization that combat — in all its forms — is really, really hard. The other thing was that, in Iraq, we deployed for 15 months, so that surge was a long haul, man.
Eversmann, right, and Sgt. Casey Joyce (killed in action) in Somalia, 1993. Photo courtesy of Matt Eversmann.
COD: Your first book, The Battle of Mogadishu, was published in 2004. Since then, you’ve partnered with bestselling author James Patterson for a series. How did that relationship come about?
ME: Like all good stories, it started in a bar. A mutual friend introduced us, and we met for a drink, and he gave me some tips on a documentary about Afghanistan I was working on. He said, “Everybody's got a story to tell. Every single one of us has a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s our job to find which piece of that story is most interesting or important.”
So after the documentary came out in 2018, James called me and said he enjoyed listening to the interviews with service members and wanted to collaborate on a book about the modern soldier, which became Walk in My Combat Boots. At the time, nobody was talking about fighting two wars anymore. Nobody was talking about the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. We decided people needed to get to know these men and women. They’re the kids in our neighborhood, so we were really motivated to introduce them back to the country. After 18 years of war, it still hadn’t been done, but the whole thing started in a bar.
Walk in My Combat Boots was the first collaboration between Matt Eversmann and James Patterson. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.
COD: You followed the success of that first collaboration with a similar collection of interviews with emergency room nurses. Did you find any similarities between the nurses and veterans you interviewed?
ME: I found that these men and women that work in emergency rooms are basically on a deployment from the time they get hired until the time they retire. There's no post-deployment stand down. It was just like talking to soldiers. They had frustrations with ambiguity from “command” (or, in their case, the hospital administration) and the emotional tachometer constantly going on and off. They have to jump back and forth between things like a two-year-old dying to getting yelled at because some lady in the waiting room got the sniffles, then having to go crack open somebody's chest. That constant turning the switch on and off was so similar to soldiers on deployment. They’re not getting shot at, but they're dealing with all the same effects of combat. They are truly angels among us.
Walk The Blue Line is the third collaboration between James Patterson and Matt Eversmann. Photo by Mac Caltrider/Coffee or Die Magazine.
COD: Your most recent book, Walk the Blue Line, explores the current state of policing in America. What was the most surprising thing you learned while interviewing police officers?
ME: I realized that it takes a certain type of person, not just to get into law enforcement, but to get in and stay in. I interviewed officers from all kinds of backgrounds and departments, and I can tell you that it's just as dangerous in the backwoods of Kentucky as it is in downtown Detroit. That officer is out there by themselves, often a good distance away from backup, and they're doing it day in and day out. It's a whole different kind of stress that I'm not sure I could deal with. Just like how war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror, police spend an awful lot of time doing unsexy things, yet every single interaction with somebody has a potential for disaster. They're on a psychological tightrope, and as a society, we expect them to be perfect 100% of the time. That's impossible, yet they still go out and do the job every day. I take my hat off to all of them.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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