“Thank You for My Service” is a hilarious, poignant romp through Best’s career

Former Army Ranger and private military contractor turned YouTube sensation and entrepreneur Mat Best is no stranger to success. A founder of veteran-owned companies Article 15 Clothing, Leadslingers Spirits, and Black Rifle Coffee Company, Best also helped to create the popular “Drinkin’ Bros” Podcast, and was instrumental in the veteran-sponsored production of zombie film “Range 15,” in which Best also has an acting role.

Best can now add New York Times bestselling author to his formidable list of achievements. His debut biography, Thank You for My Service, is a rousing read that outlines the veteran’s path to his extensive accomplishments.

Thank You for My Service is packed with Best’s signature twisted humor, which will be familiar to those who have watched his patriotic, highly ballistic, and often not-safe-for-work YouTube videos. The confident, tattooed Best, who describes himself as “carved from a solid block of American handsome” does not hesitate to turn that humor on himself. Many of the book’s earliest jokes are reserved for a scrawny, high-school-aged Best, who was in the botany club, and played bass in an emo band.

Best’s motivations, and his extracurriculars, changed when he watched his brothers enter the Marine Corps in the days following September 11, 2001, and especially after they deployed to Kuwait for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Hoping to outdo his brothers, Best set himself on a course to enlist at 17 and become an Army Ranger. His dogged pursuit of that goal would teach him his assiduous work ethic, which he distills as follows: “put one foot in front of the other, [and] recognize that no matter what, all adversity will end at some point.”

For military enthusiasts, Best describes with remarkable levity a number of anecdotes from his five Ranger deployments, including an instance of insensitive site exploitation, how he came to successfully employ dated weaponry in a modern war zone, and his unscientific method for determining the amount of explosives necessary to blow up a downed Predator drone.

Perhaps the most poignant segments of Thank You for My Service are those for which Best eschews humor. Best’s recollections of his two Ranger mentors are immensely powerful, as are his descriptions of how their examples shaped him as a leader, and continue to motivate him in his civilian career.

Best’s discussion of his transition struggles is likewise raw and unguarded. After leaving the Army and living in Los Angeles, Best recalls how, in less than a year, he lost touch with the “confidence, capability, and resolve” his service had instilled in him, and found himself in a “rage-filled, booze-soaked hole of self-doubt.” Best also explains how he rediscovered his purpose, left L.A., and became a private military contractor.

While the bulk of Thank You for My Service is devoted to his endeavors before he became an entrepreneur, Best also describes how the “crushing boredom” of contracting led him to create his first YouTube video, “Champagne Facebook Problems.” As he continued making videos, Best formed relationships that led to his host of business successes. Though he soon achieved the means to leave the contracting world, his previous ill-fated return to civilian life gave him pause. Best attributes his difficulty with transitioning to his “addiction to war,” which he has “missed more than anything…since [he] left the military.”

While he disdains Hollywood’s archetype of the soldier with PTSD, and the societal opinion that all veterans are “ticking time bombs waiting to explode,” Best acknowledges the “doubt and depression” that can plague veterans. He passes on important advice for veterans going through uncertain adjustment periods. By flipping the tired “thank you for your service” on its head, Best reminds his fellow service members who “appreciated the gratitude but had no use for the pity” that they should be the ones expressing thanks for the opportunity to serve. That service, chosen with purpose, he argues, provided “extraordinary experiences” as well as unbeatable bonds with other incredible service members.

Taken in its entirety, Thank You for My Service reads as a love ballad to Best’s fellow service members. With that audience in mind, Best’s book is gloriously irreverent. With the exception of Department of Defense redactions, it is entirely uncensored, filled with gory war anecdotes, raunchy scatological references, filthy language, and numerous recollections of Best’s carnal adventures as a Ranger and beyond. For those who can live with, and might even delight in, these obscenities, the book is also packed with valuable and astute observations about war, humankind, the utility of humor, and the incredible value in perseverance.

For those thinking of a military career, Thank You for My Service provides insight about the efforts and intentions required to become a warrior. The book is a must-read for warfighters transitioning to the civilian world, who will appreciate Best’s personal revelations, and his reassurance that the presence of struggle does not necessitate quitting. The biography will be an enjoyable romp for anyone who enjoys hearing stories of service. Most importantly, it is a reminder to all who crack its spine that simple “hard work and sacrifice” are the foremost requirements for accomplishing our desires, and giving back to the people we love.

Whether you come for the laughs, the lessons, the ladies, or the lead-slinging, Best delivers.

Freelance writer working on a novel about love and the war in Afghanistan. You can find my work in the Washington Examiner, the Federalist, and the Detroit News

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