Send Me: The True Story of a Mother at War

Image of Send Me: The True Story of a Mother at War
Release Date: 
May 7, 2024
William Morrow
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A sense of doom pervades Send Me. The reader knows from the first page that Shannon Kent, a 35-year-old mother of two and also a top military analyst, terrorist finder, and speaker of seven languages, will ultimately die tragically in Syria. A Naval officer, she put herself in harm’s way eight times, traveling out of a sense of duty to the world’s most dangerous war zones.

The co-author, Joe Kent, has a unique perspective—not only was he Shannon’s husband but he shared her vocation as a former Army Ranger and Green Beret. He spent most of his time in war zones, too, and they met in one, Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007.

“As Joe rounded the corner, he heard a woman’s voice discussing locations for Abu Abass, the leader of a Shia terrorist cell he was trying to run down. . . . He guessed the Yankees ball cap was part of an effort to play down her natural beauty, but it wasn’t working. . . . ‘Based on his pattern of life, we assess he lives in the al-Shullah neighborhood, in this area,’ she said, pointing to the map of Baghdad. She made eye contact with Joe, and he held it.”

Yes, this story of love and war is told in the third person, and it works well that way. It certainly remains a highly personal account in this form. Despite meeting in that highly dramatic moment, Shannon and Joe didn’t actually get together until seven years later, in a Virginia parking lot, as both were applying for a mission that—like most of the military campaigns in this book—is redacted (with black lines) by official censors.

The book is about both of them, but it’s essentially Shannon’s story. Her husband wants the world to know what an extraordinary woman she was and succeeds admirably. As the book’s title suggests, Shannon Kent was an empathetic, deeply humanistic person who pushed herself—both physically and mentally—to extraordinary limits to break down barriers for women in on-the-ground military intelligence at its highest levels.

Joe, reconnecting, finds out that Shannon has been working on the elite Special Reconnaissance Team. SRT, he says, “That’s badass. I didn’t know SRT was open to females?” Shannon replies, matter of factly, “Yeah, I was one of the first to try out. It’s not the norm—still a boy’s club.” Joe “could see the fierce drive beneath her casual demeanor. She could have chosen to continue riding a desk, translating Arabic like the last time he saw her, instead made a habit of deploying to dangerous places with a unit tasked with hunting and killing the enemy.”

To say that Shannon Kent was a linguistics expert fails to cover it. She mastered not only languages—French, Spanish, Arabic—but also the dialects that gave her credibility as a native speaker. And she used her skill to meet with tribal chiefs, patiently gaining their confidence and ultimately getting them to disclose the location of terrorist cells. The Defense Meritorious Service Medal cites her for leading “a joint-service [including the FBI and NSA] special mission detachment that was responsible for planning and executing sensitive technical operations in combat zones and strategic locations across four theaters of operations.”

She won the Bronze Star, and the citation says, “Her achievements will have a lasting impact in combatting enemies of the United States.” 

This is not the book to read expecting a critique of the U.S. role in war zones such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Shannon Kent went to all three, because that’s where the mission was, where her country needed her. For both Kents, their sense of mission was unassailable. Even after they had two small children, they both deployed overseas—though not without plenty of misgivings.

It’s heartbreaking to look at the photos of Shannon Kent, as a soldier in the field, as a young mother, and realize that her story was ended so soon by an ISIS suicide bomber in Syria. Heroes on her scale are rarely celebrated, because their work is both classified and clandestine, taking place behind enemy lines. But it’s groundwork that’s essential if the Rambos of this world are to make their headlines.

You won’t learn, reading this book, which units sent the Kents into the fray—that’s blacked out. But the book admirably demonstrates that this was a dedicated professional with a profound sense of mission, who broke sexist barriers and—as the title suggests—always said “send me” when volunteers were chosen for dangerous but important missions.

It’s a sad irony that, because Shannon had a brief bout with cancer, she was banned from a military program that would have earned her a psychology doctorate and a life away from the front lines helping other veterans. But the cancer didn’t prevent her from being deployed overseas, where she died. Being the person she was, Shannon fought that senseless law, and ultimately won—not for herself, but for the men and women who came after her.