The book “Three Wise Men,” tells the story of the three Wise brothers, Beau, Ben and Jeremy, and a wider story of the repeated sacrifice of post-9/11 veterans and their families.
It was co-authored by Beau Wise and Tom Sileo, who also has written military memoirs such as “8 Seconds of Courage” about Medal of Honor recipient Army Capt. Flo Groberg and “Brothers Forever,” a book about two Naval Academy classmates who served separately in the Navy SEALs and Marine Corps, among other military titles.
The Wise brothers’ story, set for release on Jan. 12, recounts their childhood in rural Arkansas and the events that led each of them to join the military in their own time – Jeremy to the Navy SEALs, Ben to the Army Special Forces and Beau to Marine infantry.
Once each set on their paths to service years passed in a blur as deployments ran together, marriages and children came into the picture.
But tragedy struck when Jeremy was killed after his time in the SEALs while he was working as a security contractor on a high-profile CIA mission in Afghanistan. Barely before the family could process the loss, Ben died from wounds sustained in an intense firefight in Afghanistan.
Beau, the last surviving brother, was pulled from his combat deployment and left adrift to make sense of it all.
Sileo and Beau spoke with Military Times about the story, how they met and how the book came to be.
Editor’s note: The following question and answer passage has been edited for clarity and length:
Q: Tom, what first drew you to pursue this story and reach out to the Wise family?
Sileo: I had originally read their story when it was reported in the news in 2009. But it wasn’t until a few years later when I found out that no one had followed up on the initial reporting. It turned out Ben had served with a soldier that I had written about nearly a decade before. I reached out through his family to see if Beau would want to talk about his family. I think the fact that all three of these brothers stepped forward to serve after 9/11. Ben was already in the Army, did a tour in Iraq in 2003 and stayed in to go to Special Forces.
I just think the level of sacrifice, not taking away from any other family or anyone else. For all three brothers to have said, okay, I’m all in, I’m doing this, do whatever is asked of me to keep my country safe.
Q: Beau, what helped you decide to work with Tom on this book about your family?
Wise: I wanted people to know was that the last actions my brothers took was to preserve other peoples’ lives. When Tom and I discussed them, the quality and caliber of men that they were, our visions were almost identical. It just kind of immediately clicked.
Q: Beau was able to provide some of the family details, his interactions with his brothers. But there were deployments, training and other events he wasn’t there for. How did this all come together?
Wise: I had some journals I’d kept but some of them were lost in military moves. I was able to recover some of the entries and share them with Tom. We reached out to a lot of the men they served with. We collected a lot of information. Thank God a few of them were out. Tom took care of those interviews. We learned a lot about Ben’s deployments from interviews he did with those Green Berets. There were times it got rough enough I had to step back entirely. I’d start to relive some things. Tom said, I’ve got it, don’t worry about it, when it’s ready to review I’ll get back in touch with you.
Q: Tom, you’ve worked on multiple military memoirs with recent veterans or their families. What do you think people should know about this book and the Wise family?
Sileo: I hope this book can encapsulate some of what this generation of warriors has been through since 9/11. Just the sheer number of deployments and time away from loved ones. The last time the three brothers were all together was at Ben’s Green Beret graduation ceremony. This is a window into what this community has had to endure and sacrifice. It’s not just action and the things you see in the movies. I hope that someone who might have no connection at all to the military might pick up this story and see what this family put on the line and ultimately sacrificed.
Q: Beau, you’ve shared a lot of what your family has been through and what brought you and your brothers to serve. You had your own struggles with loss and then surviving your brothers. What do you want readers to take away from this book?
Wise: I hope the reader’s takeaway is it is about getting people to talk.
One thing current servicemembers need to do is get young veterans to talk and not hold it in. A Green Beret friend of Ben’s told me, “Seek help, receive help and give help.”
I never wanted to feel like we were owed anything. Jeremy would do it again. Ben would do it again and I would do it again. I’ve been called “Private Ryan” before and I’m not entirely fond of the reference. We weren’t drafted, we volunteered very enthusiastically. I want people to know how proud they were to serve and how proud I am to have served.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.