I wrote Looking into the Sun in my off time while I was assigned as an operational planner to the U.S. Sixth Fleet staff in Naples, Italy, from April to August 2014. When I arrived at my new assignment, in September 2011, the Arab Spring was well underway. Syrian protestors had joined Tunisian, Libyan, and Egyptian protestors in voicing their displeasure with their government. The resulting unrest in Syria became a serious concern for the U.S. Central Command, as well as the U.S. European Command and its naval component command, the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
I was one of many operational planners to study the effect the Syrian conflict was having on our European partners. During my research, from unclassified open source material, I was appalled at the deteriorating situation in Syria and particularly its effect on Syrian civilians caught up in the violence. For the most part, there was only mainstream news coverage when chemical weapons were found to have been used in the conflict (which tapered off after only a short time) and when ISIS began to gain ground in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
In the course of my research, I found that there were many freelance journalists who had smuggled themselves into Syria to bravely report what no one else could, after Bashar Al-Assad closed his borders to foreign correspondents soon after the violence began. The stories by freelance journalists working for Vice News or on their own were astounding. The video proof of the suffering of the average citizen in Syria was heart-wrenching, especially the awful plight of the children. I saw video reports of children that were blown up by the Assad regime in their indiscriminate bombing where helicopters would push barrels packed with explosives out of their cargo bays on neighborhoods suspected to be rebel strongholds. There were also video reports of starving families who could not be resupplied because the regime had cut off all services to their neighborhoods in a cruel play to starve out their own people who they perceived were harboring rebel groups.
The videos of the innocent children who were being shot, starved, gassed, or blown up drove me to write Looking into the Sun. I knew there was not much I could do in my position as a U.S. military officer to effect any real change,so I decided to compile my research and weave real case studies into a novel. Through that effort, I would attempt to put a coherent face on the horrible situation the world seemed to be ignoring. Only recently, with reports of refugee drownings, their push across Europe, and potential ISIS terrorists hiding amongst the fleeing masses, has the refugee problem been addressed in the mainstream media, despite the fact that the situation had been going on to some extent since the fighting began in November 2011.
My focus in Looking into the Sun was intentionally narrow. I had three simple goals: (1) raise widespread awareness of the sacrifices and risks freelance journalists take to bring us the stories the mass media machine doesn’t seem to have time for, (2) acknowledge the ongoing child suffering in Syria since November 2011 and, most importantly, (3) remind the average reader that there are credible and effective ways to help these innocent children.
My publisher, Zara Kramer at Pandamoon Publishing, and I discussed what we could do to directly help the Syrian children. We mutually decided to each donate a percentage of the profits of the sale of this book to the most important organization providing real relief in the area. I am honored to support the selfless souls at Save the Children as we all work to provide Syrian children (and all suffering children throughout the world) the tangible, loving care they need and deserve. I thank you personally for contributing to this effort by purchasing this book. If you would like to make an additional donation, please visit http://www.savethechildren.org. Remember, every little thing we do makes a difference, but you first MUST ACT. Please help me make a difference today!