In The Shadow of Freedom: A Heroic Journey to Manhood and Liberation
IN THE SHADOW OF FREEDOM: A Heroic Journey to Manhood and Liberation (Atria Books; On-sale August 2010; ISBN: 978-1-4391-1629-6; $15.00), written with Travis Sentell, Missamou recalls the harrowing saga of his incredible life in vivid detail. Born a member of the Bakongo tribe, Missamou was recruited into its militia at the age of seven to wage a civil war against tribes in the northern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For the next 12 years, he witnessed his child comrades being plied with drugs and alcohol to shoot the so-called enemy with AK-47s and commit atrocities against them. But as the civil war continued to escalate, Missamou was struck with the realization that all the citizens in the Congo were his brothers and sisters so he laid down his arms and was reunited with his mother and siblings.
When Missamou was 19 years old, however, a second wave of civil unrest erupted and the militia again tried to recruit him. This time, he refused to join them but not without consequences: the soldiers beat him mercilessly and terrorized his family. As Missamou slipped into unconsciousness, he witnessed the solders rape his mother and was powerless to protect her. Once he regained consciousness, he loaded her bloody and brutalized body onto a pushcart and took her to the home of a Dutch diplomat whom he’d befriended. As doctors treated his mother, it became clear he would have to leave the country if he wanted to live. Furnished with forged papers, a fake passport, a bit of money, and an airline ticket to Belgium, Missamou made the painful decision to leave his motherland. With raw emotion, Missamou recalls the peril and sacrifice his father undertook to help him escape. As a result his father was arrested, jailed, beaten, tortured and purposely infected with the HIV virus.
Once Missamou arrived in Belgium, he applied for political asylum but was refused. He then went to Paris to live with an aunt where he worked for a shipping company. Always frugal, he saved his money and with $1000 in his pocket, he flew to California and made an inexpensive motel in Sacr amento his new home. Determined to make his way in America, he found employment at a martial arts studio where he attracted the attention of some Marines who encouraged him to enlist. He followed their advice, graduated at the top of his class and received his first deployment. Eventually, he would lead a squad in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq and become one of the men responsible for the rescue of Jessica Lynch. Through an executive order issued by President George W. Bush in 2002 that allowed legal permanent residents actively serving in the U.S. military to become immediately eligible to apply for citizenship, Missamou became a proud American citizen on August 1, 2003.
From impoverished child soldier to U.S. Marine and American citizen, Tchicaya Missamou has overcome both physical and emotional obstacles to emerge a hero and true patriot. With sharply crafted images and masterful storytelling, IN THE SHADOW OF FREEDOM is a testament to why being an American is a gift that should never be taken for granted.
Tchicaya Missamou was born and reared in Brazzaville, Congo, the eighth of 16 children. As a child, he was introduced to the reality of tribal warfare and would be a soldier for the next 12 years. At the age of 19, he escaped from the Republic of Congo with the help of his father and European acquaintances and made his way to America. He was recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps and served a tour in Iraq which garnered him his American citizenship. Today, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in education and is the owner of The Warrior Fitness, a high-end personal training facility in Valencia, California. He lives in Saugus, California with his wife and children. •
Travis Sentell was born in New Orleans and currently resides in Los Angeles where he works as a screenwriter, essayist, novelist, actor and playwright.
IN THE SHADOW OF FREEDOM:
A Heroic Journey to Manhood and Liberation
By Tchicaya Missamou with Travis Sentell
On-sale: August 2010