Rob Carlisle: “You never can know what will happen to you in a day…”

From time to time in this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share their self-publishing journeys. The following are the words of Cmdr. Rob Carlisle, (U.S. Navy – Ret.), author of “Defending Freedom” and a survivor of a gunman’s attack against the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, 2013. 

After the attacks of 9/11, September has become a month of remembrance.  Certainly the events of that day have affected most Americans in one way or another.  As for me personally, it would affect me for the next decade.  2001 was an interesting year.  In January, I had decided to leave the Navy and take up a job in corporate America. Later that spring, I also joined the Navy reserves to keep myself involved in an organization I loved while earning some extra money during the weekends while also planning ahead for a retirement with a military pension.

Then September 11 happened.  I didn’t know at the time how it would affect me; I just knew it would.  Then about a year later, because 9/11 impacted an already shaky economy, I lost my job with the technology company I had joined following my time in the Navy. Then just six months into a new job, I was called back up to active duty and found myself in Naples, Italy, at the outbreak of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For several months, I supported a crisis action team that coordinated military shipping traffic in the Mediterranean.  The operational

Carlisle wrote "Defending Freedom"  for his teenage sons.

Carlisle wrote “Defending Freedom” for his teenage sons.

tempo was intense and in the back of my head was always the thought of my wife and three young sons back in the States in a home we just barely moved into before I got the call. Fast forward several years later when I first got the idea to write my book Defending Freedom.  My main motivation was to leave a legacy for my now teenage sons; a book on life’s lessons if you will in which I could lay out my reasons for why I choose to follow Christ.

My idea centered on the tale of two midshipmen following their graduation from the Naval Academy against the backdrop of the world after 9/11. The Navy makes you grow up quickly because of the amount of responsibility immediately thrust upon the shoulders of young officers.  I wanted to share with my sons some of my own experiences while paying homage to the difficulties associated with military life.  What better setting than the Navy to illustrate how Christ can truly make a difference in your life?  My final manuscript was finished in the summer of 2013 and I began to look into publishing alternatives.

Carlisle with his sons Nathan, Kyle and Joel during a cross country road trip to California to celebrate Rob's dad's 80th birthday.

Rob Carlisle with his sons Nathan, Kyle and Joel during a cross country road trip to California to celebrate Rob’s dad’s 80th birthday.

Then on the morning of September 16, 2013, a young man decided to smuggle a shotgun into Building 197 at the Navy Yard and started firing at people on the fourth floor of that building.  When all was said and done, he and 12 innocent people had lost their lives.  Fortunately, I was not one of them, because I was standing right around the corner from the gunman when he started his rampage.  God’s angels were protecting me that morning as I was able to escape out a fire exit to safety.  Others were not so lucky and couldn’t make it out and were either victims or witnesses to this horror.  One year later, the memory of that day is very much ingrained in everyone present during this act of pure evil.

So on September 17, 2013 I decided to turn a negative into a positive and submitted my manuscript to WestBow Press.  WestBow Press had interested me because of their relationship with Thomas Nelson, a well-known and respected Christian publisher.  Looking back a year later, I realize now that this was a hasty decision based on a sense of urgency.  You never can know what will happen to you in a day!  But I have never regretted it.

WestBow Press guided me through the process and did a wonderful job with designing the cover and interior of my book.  And I have immensely enjoyed telling others about my book.  It has created many opportunities for me to share the gospel of Christ.  When you write a book, the first question everyone asks is “What is it about?”  And through my blog and my book’s Facebook page, I can routinely interact with hundreds of people I would never have met otherwise.

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-500 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books, are invited to do so by sending a message through our Facebook page at, by tweeting us @westbowpress, or by emailing kgray@  We may not be able to use every story, but we will read and consider them. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar and punctuation accuracy; as well as for space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *