The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi

The Last Punisher A SEAL Team THREE Sniper's True Account of the Battle of RamadiDon’t miss the New York Times bestselling on-the-ground memoir from a Navy SEAL who was part of SEAL Team THREE with American Sniper Chris Kyle. Experience his deployment, from his gripping first mission to his first kill to his eventual successful return to the United States to play himself in the Oscar-nominated film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper.

The Last Punisher is a bold, no-holds-barred first-person account of the Iraq War. With wry humor and moving testimony, Kevin Lacz tells the story of his tour in Iraq with SEAL Team THREE, the warrior elite of the Navy. This legendary unit, known as “The Punishers,” included Chris Kyle (American Sniper), Mike Monsoor, Ryan Job, and Marc Lee. These brave men were instrumental in securing the key locations in the pivotal 2006 Battle of Ramadi, told with stunning detail in these pages.

Minute by minute, Lacz relays the edge-of-your-seat details of his team’s missions in Ramadi, offering a firsthand glimpse into the heated combat, extreme conditions, and harrowing experiences they faced every day. Through it all, Lacz and his teammates formed unbreakable bonds and never lost sight of the cause: protecting America with their fight.

The Last Punisher brings the reader into the life and mind of a SEAL, demonstrating the tough realities of war. At the same time, Lacz shares how these experiences made him a better man and how proud he is of his contributions to one of this country’s most difficult military campaigns. Lacz is now an in-demand public speaker testifying to the ability of a veteran to thrive at home. The book includes an afterword on the making of the hit film American Sniper.

The Last Punisher is the story of a SEAL who was never afraid to answer the call.

Review

“There are few, if any, people in the world who knew Chris Kyle as well as Kevin "Dauber" Lacz. Many, like myself, knew some of Chris’s story; few, like Kevin, knew virtually all of it.

This book is about the amazing true grit of SEAL Team THREE in some of the worst days of battle in the history of the US SEAL Teams and the United States. The epitome of the SEAL attitude of “never quit” runs through Kevin’s veins and this book’s pages. A must read.” (Scott McEwen, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper and the nationally bestselling Sniper Elite series of novels)

“One of the very best books to come out of the war in Iraq. A natural sequel to American Sniper and a powerful, rapid-fire look into the world of an operator. An instant classic that will be of enormous value to future warriors, scholars, and anyone who cares about our military and our veterans.” (Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, bestselling author of On Killing)

"The Last Punisher takes you right onto the battlefield and into the heart of the action. A rare glimpse into the mind of a Navy SEAL—you won't be able to put it down." (Clint Emerson, New York Times bestselling author of 100 Deadly Skills)

"[Lacz's] pungent, plain-spoken account has lots of butt-kicking and some tears, and serves to remind civilian readers again that war is another world...an unapologetic tribute to the habits and attitudes of the professional warriors of SEAL Team THREE...a late but worthy arrival to the Navy SEAL memoir genre." (City Journal)

"Superb action-writing. The finest story of a SEAL team in combat: alternately violent, thoughtful, funny and raw. Always compelling, page after page. Bravo Zulu!" (Bing West, New York Times bestselling author of No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah)

“Kevin Lacz is an honest-to-God American hero. Serving with the elite Navy Seals, Kevin faced bullets and bombs to stop terrorists from coming toward us. In The Last Punisher, Kevin tells his story in a compelling and earthy way that brings the challenges of the soldier to every page. You might already love America, but you’ll love it more after reading this book." (Mike Huckabee, 44th governor of Arkansas and #1 bestselling author of God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy)

"The Last Punisher is both frightening and exhilarating. It puts you right in the middle of the action, as if you're next to Kevin during the events he describes. His account provides a deeper understanding of the service of our most heroic elite fighters." (Willie Robertson, New York Times bestselling author of The Duck Commander Family)

"The Last Punisher by Kevin Lacz will impact the generations living through the troubles in the Middle East in much the same way All Quiet On The Western Front did those living in the aftermath of World War I. This is an important book. Vivid in detail, cranked with action, and fueled by a love for his family, his country, and his fellow man." (Andy Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer)

"A remarkable tribute to the power of teamwork and a rare honest glimpse into a brotherhood where the stakes are life and death. The Last Punisher gives the reader an essential new understanding of what our American service members have endured during the War on Terror." (John Rocker, retired Major League Baseball pitcher and director of public affairs for Save Homeless Veterans)

An American hero’s engrossing and action-packed memoir of The Battle of Ramadi…a powerful narrative into the mindset of a sniper at war…does an outstanding job of illustrating the life of a Navy SEAL.” (Don Mann, New York Times bestselling author of Inside Team Six: My Life)

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Last Punisher

PROLOGUE

GET YOUR SHIT! All hands to the roof of Shark House!” Marc Lee’s breathless bark snapped me out of sleep.

I didn’t think as I jolted off my cot, stuck my bare feet in my Oakley boots, and grabbed my web gear, machine gun, helmet, and night-vision goggles (NVGs). I ran hot on Marc’s heels, in nothing but a pair of PT shorts and some assault gear, as we raced the hundred yards to the roof like sharks toward blood in the water.

Impending violence permeated the Euphrates’s musty breeze.

“Muj swimmers trying to attack Blue Diamond,” Marc called over his shoulder as we hit the ground-floor entrance to the house. Camp Blue Diamond was the Marine base across the river to our east. We bounded up the stairs, untied boot laces whipping our bare shins. On the roof, we joined about twenty other Teamguys, most of us in PT shorts and bare chested, the unofficial uniform for middle-of-the-night, just-out-of-your-rack muj hunting. I saw an occasional T-shirt and had to stifle a chuckle when I noticed Guy, one of our officers, and his perfect uniform. A hodgepodge of support guys intermixed among us. When Marc said all hands, he had meant all hands. Everybody wanted to get his war on.

The muj had sent a sorry contingent of maritime fighters to attack the Marine base. Blue Diamond had alerted our tactical operations center (TOC), who in turn had coordinated the perfect L-shaped ambush. We stood poised, waiting for the green light from our base defense operations center on Camp Ramadi. Our mismatched uniforms and patchwork appearance belied our deadly potential. We stood, silently, vipers waiting to strike.

Somebody was going to have a bad night.

Guy was on my left. Marc Lee and Ryan Job fell in alongside him. JP was to my right. We were new to war, but our brotherhood spanned many generations and was forged by a proud warrior tradition. We were ready.

A few spots to my right, a support guy named Neal was armed to the teeth. I stifled another chuckle. His gear was an arsenal of grenades, M4 mags, and trinkets. He had no NVGs. I turned my attention back across the quiet river. My night vision infiltrated the darkness, and I could see movement. I pushed the safety off on my gun and turned on my infrared laser.

Then the command came.

Three, two, one. Execute.

Together, we unleashed hell on the river below and the unsuspecting muj lurking in its waters. It was euphoric. I methodically delivered 150 rounds in precise eight-to-ten-round bursts. The tracers screamed across the water. Some hit and stuck; others deflected and fizzled into the night. The intense energy of American ordnance and thunder of machine guns singing all around left no doubt in my mind: I was born for this.

I looked around me at every other man doing exactly the same thing and realized that this is how it had always been. Since the first man threw a rock, to when a man chucked a spear, to when another man aimed his rifle, it has come down to a man, his weapon, and the brothers who will fight with him. At that moment, everyone who mattered to me was on that rooftop. Nothing existed beyond Ramadi. These were the men who would bring me out alive, as I would them. I had literally nothing but my gun and my brothers. I hope it will always be like this.

I didn’t notice my scalding-hot shell casing ejecting toward JP’s exposed leg to my right. I didn’t care. When the abrupt call to cease fire finally came, my ears rang, my hands tingled, and the enemy was dead or dying. I felt alive.

Someone was yelling at Neal for firing six mags at the enemy with no night vision on. We called him Shadow Stalker for the rest of the deployment. A gunner’s mate tech asked sheepishly, “Hey, man, am I going to get my Combat Action Ribbon for this?”

“Sure, man,” I said, deciding to let him revel in his glory for a little while.

I checked my left flank. Guy, Marc, and Ryan had the familiar look of satisfaction that operating a powerful weapon delivers. JP cussed the burns on his left calf from my brass. I shrugged and took a deep breath. The smell of cordite from hundreds of spent rounds mixed with a breeze from the Euphrates’s ancient waters. I put my gun on safe and hit the pressure pad for the laser. I grabbed my gear and began the walk back to my tent, wondering how many similar opportunities I’d have like this over the next seven months. I didn’t want it to change me, or us—any of us. I didn’t think ahead to the future—where I’d be as a man or a husband or father a decade later. It didn’t matter at the time. I just needed to clean my gun. I was in Ramadi, and I’d be back in my rack before the flies found the meat we’d left for them in the reeds.

Later, I lay awake for only a moment before falling into a satisfied sleep, confident in the work I’d done with the others.

I hope it will always be like this.

FEBRUARY 2, 2013

The bar had a typical college feel to it. The slight touch of hippie made it the type of place that, in my past life, I would have tried to avoid. It was early and the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, night was just getting going. I settled into a much-needed night off from studying and routine grad school life as the opening snap of a cue ball breaking the rack cut into my conversation with my wife, Lindsey. I took a pull from the Coors Light bottle. Some things never change.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. For a moment, I considered ignoring it. I was enjoying a rare night out at a friend’s birthday party and I really didn’t need a distraction. Then again, I wasn’t the average physician assistant student. I had a kid at home with a babysitter, and I had a job outside of school. I checked the phone. The last thing I needed was to miss an important call.

The screen read STEVEN YOUNG—CRAFT CEO.

I thought it strange for the boss to call at 8 p.m. on a weekend. I answered, figuring it had to be important.

“Hey, Steven,” I said, my phone held tight to my right ear and my fingers plugging my left to block out the noise of the bar. “What’s up?”

I immediately realized something was very wrong from the tone of Steven’s voice. The words tumbled out at me and I collected what I could. “Dauber . . . something bad happened earlier . . . Chris is gone . . . shot earlier today with Chad . . . Murder . . . I’m so sorry . . .”

The phone stayed fixed at my ear, but I didn’t hear the rest of what he said. I felt like I’d just been punched in the face. I guess you could call it shock. I shot a look across the bar at Lindsey, whose eyes were glued on me. She knew something was wrong.

I mumbled a thanks to Steven and a request to keep me posted, then hung up the phone.

I walked over to Lindsey. I didn’t want to tell her. Since we’d met nearly seven years earlier, we’d grown accustomed to breaking this kind of news to each other. More often it was me who broke it to her, sometimes over the phone when I learned of the death of someone I’d served with, sometimes even via text, other times face-to-face, like this.

I didn’t want to tell her.

She was happy, standing there, enjoying a night out. Reluctantly, I grabbed her hand and led her out of the bar. I looked at her face in the streetlight. I thought of the news I’d broken to her over the years, and how she’d taken it on with me, because they were my losses. Each time she had mourned with me, respectfully paying tribute to the men I called brothers. This was going to be different. The longer I’d been out of the Teams, the more my core group of friends had dwindled. Chris had remained constant. I knew this news was going to hurt.

When we were still dating and living in Imperial Beach, California, I took her along on a sniper shoot east of San Diego. All the snipers in the task unit came and a couple of us brought our girlfriends. Chris was solo that day, so we spent the afternoon sighting in the guns and teaching the chicks to shoot. Lindsey had never shot a rifle before, but I could tell she was happy, especially after I watched her hit a head plate target at 500 meters. Chris was the first to praise her with a “Hell yeah!” With praise coming from the Legend, she was especially proud of her shooting.

I thought about the fun we’d all had together over the years. This time it was her loss, too.

As I told her, I watched her crumble. A mixture of disbelief and confusion contorted her face for a few moments before the tears came. She hugged me briefly and silently, obviously in the same state of shock that I was in. As we walked the short block to the car she stopped suddenly, hunched over, and vomited in an alley. Without a word, she straightened back up and got in the car to go home. I felt nothing but unsettled behind the wheel. I had just spoken to Chris the day before about a work project. He texted me hours before his murder. We’d planned to talk the next day. The abruptness left me at a loss for words.

There is an inherent danger to being a Teamguy. Before I took my oath to join the Navy, I realized that I might get hurt doing the job. I understood that I or someone I knew might get killed along the way. There’s nothing morbid about it. It’s just business. I guess that realization helped condition or prepare me for the bad news, which has come steadily. I was on a beach in Jacksonville, Florida, when I heard the news of Extortion 17 (a helicopter mission in Afghanistan in 2011) and the fate of Jon Tumilson and Darrik “D-Rock” Benson, guys whom I had worked with at Team THREE. I was shocked, but quietly at ease with the fact they died doing a job they wanted. They were fighting alongside brothers. Chris was different.

I called Guy, our old LT, as I drove through the silent streets of Winston-Salem. Voice mail. “LT, this is Dauber, give me a call when you get this.”

The texts from other Teamguys began to pour in, but I really didn’t want to read them.

U HEAR ABOUT CHRIS? . . . WTF . . .

When I got back to the house, I grabbed the bottle of bourbon and stared at the computer screen. Murder. I let the burn of the liquor resonate as I felt the sting of the word on my soul. I couldn’t shake the dirtiness of it. Murdered. Chris and Chad. I poured myself another glass and closed my eyes.

I had just visited Dallas a few months earlier for a work trip and sat across from Chris in his Midlothian living room. My belly ached from the jokes we told and the incessant wisecracks that were traded. He was bandaged from his knees down due to an unfortunate sunburn sustained on the Gulf of Mexico. For all the years in the Teams that I spent with Chris, I rarely saw him in shorts. His most recent fishing trip on a flat-bottom boat left him burned and his ego bruised. We sat, joked, drank, and chewed as the Rangers game hummed in the background.

We had been to Iraq together, the place where tough guys go and come out even tougher. We transitioned out of the Teams to the other side comfortably and now worked at his company. For all the experiences shared, we didn’t talk about war. I saw the same smile he left us with in Iraq in 2006 when he headed home to be with his kids. We swapped stories about our kids—he couldn’t wait for football season to start. I promised to call him when the Patriots won and the Cowboys lost. He told me that I wouldn’t have many calls to make. . . . All that would change now.

I opened my eyes as Lindsey cracked open the office door. I had no idea how long I’d been thinking. I looked up at her and then glanced at my phone. She could tell I didn’t want to talk. Lindsey is my rock, but there are some things that I just deal with on my own. She knows that. She closed the door as my phone rang again.

I passed along all the information I had to Guy. He was incredulous. Guy served as our officer in 2008 and the three of us had kept in close contact in the years after leaving the Teams. The silence on the phone lingered like a long-range desert patrol in Iraq. “Fuck, I’m sorry, Daubs. Let me know what else you hear. I’m there for ya.” I relayed the same and poured another drink.

I sat alone in the room and reminisced about the good times. My transition out of the military changed my affiliation with the Teams. Once I was out, I became a former action guy, a guy who used to do cool things but has moved on. It’s not the most glorious self-realization, but it is reality. My departure from the Teams changed my direction. I was on the path to becoming a physician assistant, I had earned a bachelor’s in political science, I had a wife and a son and a house and a whole life that separated me from who I was when I was a Teamguy. Yet, somehow, I’ve always felt drawn back to the Teams. Especially in times like those, at the death of a brother, I realize that a Teamguy is never really out. The brotherhood binds us for longer than a deployment, longer than a platoon, longer than a work-up.

I recalled the phone call Chris made to me to tell me that Ryan “Biggles” Job had passed in 2009. It was my first introduction to loss outside the Teams, and it was raw. I could make sense of dying on the battlefield, but Ryan had overcome his injuries and lived a full life for several years before succumbing to complications from a reconstructive surgery. When Chris called and told me, I felt angry, like we’d been cheated. There was no goodbye. Just a few days before his death, Ryan had called to tell me his wife was pregnant. He was so happy. Then he was gone. I regretted that I hadn’t told him more. I hadn’t told him how proud I was of him. I didn’t say how much of an inspiration he was to others—and the Teamguys—around him. There was no going back. Only memories to relive.

Ryan was the beginning of a cycle. There would be more phone calls and bad news. More anger and memories, and more of the feeling that I am always connected to the brotherhood, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve worn the uniform. Pat Feeks. Nick Checque. Matt Leathers. Tim Martin. The list goes on. Each time the loss brings me back.

And now Chris had left us just as suddenly as Biggles and the others, with nothing but memories to relive.

Each time, the news incites the same rage. The rage is not directed toward any individual, but rage that the world lost a favored son. The memories I had of these individuals strengthen this claim. These were giants among men, and they will no longer walk among us. I feel sorrow for the future that will not know them. I felt the rage boil in me when I thought about Chris.

I downed the last of my bourbon. There is only one place to go when you lose a close friend. A Teammate. A brother. You have to go back. My time in the Teams constantly intersects with the present. It is unavoidable. Each time I suffer a loss, I go back to better times when I knew him living. I go back to the genesis—the beginning of my Frogman days. There is comfort in this journey. It takes me back to the brotherhood, to the blood, the sweat, and the tears endured to earn the beloved burden. It helps me not to lament the passing of a Teammate, but rather to relish in the luxury I was afforded to live and fight next to him.

Many people search their entire lives for meaning or for a single memorable experience. My time in the Teams with the Punishers, with Chris, was my holy grail.

I slid my glass to the side and opened a file on the computer. I stared at the picture of Chris and me at our 2007 awards ceremony. A wave of energy shot through my veins. We had all gone to Danny’s Island Bar for the drink-up afterward. My dad had been there, along with Lindsey, Momma Lee, and the hundred or so Frogmen from Team THREE. I laughed out loud as I remembered catching my dad’s eye at the bar. We had captured some unsuspecting BUD/S trainees and voluntold them to participate in some “team-building” exercises. I let my mind drift to the following drink-up and after party at Ty Woods’s bar, the Far East Rock. The memories were clear. They would always be clear. I smiled as I thought about my progression as a Frog.

I opened a CD case and put on my platoon’s video from 2006. I used to watch it religiously after I got out of the Teams, but as the years had gone by the frequency had decreased. Tonight, it felt right to watch it. As the sound came to life and the images appeared, they were as vivid as my memory.

All the way back. I felt drawn to the experiences, the men I fought with, and the memories shared. I felt life lived at its fullest. Although someone had taken Chris’s life on that February day, they couldn’t take my memories of him. The same is true of Biggles, Marc Lee, D-Rock, JT, and the others who helped shape who I am. I was being drawn to another life. I was back to where I’d started again. Back to the Teams.

  • Page: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Threshold Editions (July 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501127241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501127243

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