Friday, July 11, 2008

Recent History in Stores

Written 13 May
I had the honor of doing some technical editing for "Heroes Among Us."

There are several outstanding books on the war against terrorists I would highly recommend, Heroes Among Us by Major Chuck Larson, Moment of Truth in Iraq by Michael Yon, and House to House by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia.

I had previously written a column about Lone Survivor by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and still have that near the top of the “must read” list.

Heroes Among Us is a collection of “firsthand accounts of combat from Iraq and Afghanistan” as told by troops who have won some of our nation’s highest awards for courage under fire.

The book is a collection of windows from history into some of the toughest fights in the war. Each chapter is the personal retelling, by each service member, of the events during combat that earned them a Silver Star or higher, and will fill you with emotion as you recognize the personal hardship of combat, but also with pride having just seen heroes in action through their own humble words.

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret, and author of Moment of Truth in Iraq, has been an embedded reporter in Iraq longer than anyone else, spending most of the last two years there.

In Moment of Truth in Iraq, Yon shares some of the individual stories he’s personally witnessed, but also shows how those stories reflect the bigger scheme of things, and gives us a comprehensive look at our forces and the situation in Iraq.

Through months and months of extensive patrolling on Iraqi streets, in villages, and through the countryside with front line units, Yon has lived the fight more than any other reporter and developed a leading sense of our troop’s success from the ground up.

You can see the life of a soldier from his perspective.

By developing relationships with our military commanders, Yon has also garnered a realistic sense of what’s happening throughout Iraq.

He gives a “no holds barred” account of battles, assessment of our media’s coverage of the war, capabilities of our troops, Al Qaeda, the Iraqis, and our chances for victory. He especially focuses on how success has come with the Surge.

Yon’s independence and objectivity as a journalist and author show throughout the book. The only side he takes is that of the soldier.

Moment of Truth will help you understand what’s really happening in Iraq at both the street level and “the big picture” level.

House to House by Congressional Medal of Honor nominee Staff Sergeant David Bellavia is truly unique with its insight into the life of an infantryman. It is a raw, but very well written account of combat and those who go to war on the front lines for us.

If you’ve ever served with the infantry you’ll find yourself laughing, nodding, and solemnly remembering those you served with. If you’ve not served with the infantry, he will help you understand them and what we ask of them. Bellavia nails the life and those who endure it.

He provides a graphic squad and platoon level description of the fight in Fallujah during the fall of ’04, and perfectly captures the innumerable difficulties of fighting in an urban environment. The content is worthy of the title.

I wouldn’t say House to House is unglossed, the writing and editing are done very well and it’s an easy read, but it is unglossed in that all the rough edges of a soldier and combat are left bare in the book.

Bellavia’s close quarters and hand to hand fight alone at night with terrorists in a dark Fallujah house is riveting, as are his emotions in the time afterward, and his coming to terms with being a husband and father first, instead of a soldier.

The reality of combat and life afterward captured in House to House is too much to let my fourteen year old read right now, but some day he must read it, because it answers all the “why” and “what was it like” questions.

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