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James Hatch

Retired member of the Naval Special Warfare Development group, author of Touching the Dragon, and founder of Spike’s K9 Fund

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  • About James Hatch

    James Hatch never imagined himself standing on a stage giving speeches. For 24 years, his job had been something very different. He was a member of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, a master parachutist, an expert military dog trainer and handler, and was involved in 150 missions across Iraq, Bosnia, Africa, and Afghanistan. From the age of 18, he had found a purpose and a family in the military, working and fighting alongside his crew.

    Then in July 2009, a bullet shattered his femur while his team was on a mission attempting to rescue Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl from the grips of the Taliban. Adapting to civilian life presented considerable challenges. Seemingly deprived of his purpose, Hatch struggled with alcoholism, depression, and suicidal thoughts, wrestling with the lasting effects of trauma even as his physical health improved. He thought about the members of his crew who had put their lives at risk to save his; he thought about the military dog who was killed during the mission; and he felt like he had gone from being an asset to being a liability. During the fight to save not only his leg, but his mind as well, Hatch discovered how the powerful support of a team—like his unit in the military—could also manifest itself in civilian life. With the help of the chain of his support team, he began to adapt to his new circumstances and was ultimately able to build his life back up in the face of his challenges by giving back to others.

    These days his mission is helping dogs, and trying to help people by telling them his story.  His raw and honest style of speaking has made a difference in the lives of military veterans struggling with PTSD as well as civilians. “I realized that you don’t have to be a commando to suffer severe trauma. Life is combat. For most of us. We go from conflict to conflict, with most of the conflicts occurring inside of us.” He is determined to assault the stigma associated with mental illness and empower those who are struggling to reach out to their own support networks and ask for help.

    To help working K9s and to honor the memory of the dogs who fought and died by his side on the battlefield, he founded Spike’s K9 Fund to equip working K9s with top-quality bullet proof vests. Anderson Cooper featured Hatch’s work in CNN’s Champions for Change series. Hatch is also publishing a memoir, Touching the Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life’s Wars, that shares everything from his lowest points of shame to moving moments of reinvention.

  • Speaking Topics

    Take Care of Each Other, It's Really Not That Hard: Lessons for Surviving Life's Wars

    In this talk, James Hatch’s talents as a frank and unpretentious speaker make his story one that audiences will never forget. Hatch delves into his personal moments of darkness, or, "dragons" and how approaching that pain has helped him heal and recover. He talks about the unwavering support of his crew, both in the military and in civilian life. Hatch’s uncompromising honesty empowers audience members to consider their own struggles in a new light and to empathize deeply with others.

    Taking the Fluff Out of Teamwork: Working Together When the Bullets Are Real

    James Hatch has heard all the clichés surrounding teamwork, but in the military—where his crew depended on each other for their lives—he truly learned what an effective team looks like. Hatch shares lessons from expected and unexpected places, from his unit to encounters with noncombatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the members of the medical team that aided in his recovery after being wounded. He demonstrates that the simple principle of taking care of each other is an essential foundation for any team.

    Talking Honestly About Mental Illness

    There is a stigma surrounding mental illness that makes it hard for those struggling to talk about their experiences and ask for help. James Hatch confronts this stigma head-on. Hatch encourages an open and honest conversation about mental illness to encourage people to reach out to both help themselves and those around them.

    The Work of Spike’s K9 Fund

    As a longtime handler of military dogs during his time in the Navy, James Hatch relied on trained military dogs countless times, and they saved his life on more than one occasion. Now Hatch is working to save their lives. In this talk Hatch introduces audiences to the work of his organization, Spike’s K9 Fund, illustrating how caring for these animals and providing them with adequate protection helps both the dogs and those who work with them.

  • Video

  • Praise for James Hatch

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    “Jimmy was an absolute SMASH HIT at the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona’s (BIAAZ) Crowns for Camo fundraiser. There was a diverse crowd of veterans, survivors of serious brain injury, and caregivers in attendance, as well as elected officials and some of the best doctors in the nation, and he was able to relate with and inspire all of them. He was generous with his time, kind to all, and just amazingly genuine. And don’t even get me started on his keynote. He really, truly hit a home run for the BIAAZ. I am busy today fielding endless compliments on his behalf. Jimmy would make for a magnificent speaker for health care, mental health, veterans, corporate motivation, government, nonprofits, and animal welfare causes, to name a few.”

    Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona
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    “There are many speakers out there who offer one form or another of ‘motivational’ or ‘leadership’ presentations. What was so engaging about Mr. Hatch was that nothing about his presentation seemed canned or trite. He spoke from the heart, and he quickly and easily brought his amazing real life experiences to the room in a tangible way. People were talking about him months after the offsite. Despite his accomplishments, Mr. Hatch does not have a pretentious bone in his body and easily engaged with coworkers across the spectrum at SFM. Mr. Hatch would be a valuable addition as a speaker to a wide array of corporate or personal events.”

    Soros Fund Management
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    “Jimmy Hatch is a hero. But not just for his incredible work and sacrifice defending our country. When I first considered bringing in Jimmy to be the keynote speaker for a utility safety summit, I had confidence that he would be able to capture the audience’s attention, simply with his amazing story as a Navy SEAL. However, I was not sure how well we would be able to correlate his story to ours. As such, I was extremely pleased when I met with Jimmy and found out how committed he was to supporting our mission. Professionally, he did an amazing job accepting our feedback and tying his experiences to our business. But as a person, I came to find that Jimmy is one of the most humble individuals I have ever met, despite having the credentials to justify a huge ego. Jimmy’s humility showed in the way that he candidly talked about his experiences (successes and struggles) in a way that connected with everyone. He opened himself to us sharing raw, emotional, and difficult experiences because he truly wants to help people. Jimmy certainly helped my organization, as well as countless others. And for that, Jimmy Hatch is still a hero.”

    PECO Energy Company
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    “For more than four years, I have watched Jim manage his personal and professional narrative and deliver his hard-earned wisdom to service members (wounded, active, retired…) as well as to corporate leaders. Each time, his candor and insight have made tangible and lasting impact. Each time, the packed room has erupted with meaningful questions. Each time, Jim is swarmed by listeners hoping to share how his talk resonates with them. Recently, Jim spoke at a ValueOptions event that included everyone from our executives and tier-one partners to wounded service members. Months later, we are still hearing from those partner companies on the impact Jim’s talk had. The themes from events I have attended and from the event Jim spoke at for ValueOptions are his absolute candor, which arrests participants immediately and his profound perspective that compels listeners to self-evaluate. He is professional, personable, organized and excellent to work with.”

    ValueOptions

    Praise for Touching the Dragon

    Jimmy Hatch has managed to write a love story out of a war story. The love he has for those he protected, those he fought with, the dogs he depended on. And finally he found a way to love himself.

    Kenny Mayne, ESPN anchor; host, Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports

    This book touched me like no other personal account of battle I’ve read. Though a special operator who saw more engagements than most, Jimmy Hatch offers no boast or bravado. Instead he describes his unique experiences—and the wars that have shaped this generation of fighting men and women—with provocative insight, calm stoicism, and thoughtful but frustrated understanding. But it is how he has taken those experiences and applied them to his post-trauma life that makes this comparable to Sajer’s The Forgotten Soldier. An exceptional read.

    General Mark Hertling

    Jimmy Hatch is heroic, not just for what he has done on the battlefield, but for breaking the silence surrounding the battles many service members face when they return home. He is a warrior who read Neruda and Epictetus by chemlite on blacked out helicopters on his way back from secret nighttime missions in faraway lands. He is a writer whose descriptions of the 'clean, shining edges of time' he experienced on the battlefield haunt me. He is a survivor and though some of his wounds are visible, his deepest wounds, and his greatest strengths, are only revealed in the pages of Touching the Dragon. There are plenty of books full of daring wartime exploits, but I haven't come across any book that reveals with such honesty and openness, the 'second war' that Jimmy and other special operators must fight when they come back to a society that seems so alien to them, a society completely divorced from the purity of combat.

    Anderson Cooper
  • Books by James Hatch

  • Media About James Hatch

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  • 212 572-2013
  • James Hatch travels from Virginia, USA

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