Bestseller Patterson (Deadly Cross) and retired U.S. Army Ranger Eversmann gather firsthand accounts from veterans, most of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan, to deliver a vivid and authentic portrait of life in the modern military. Many of the soldiers profiled are children of career military men and were spurred into action by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Their specialties range from helicopter door gunner to dentist (Maj. Gen. Ron Silverman fixed Saddam Hussein’s broken tooth after he was captured in 2003). Recurring themes include the shock of entering a war zone, the experience of losing a friend, and battles with alcohol, drugs, and PTSD. Contributors express mixed feelings about their Afghan and Iraqi allies, doubts about the prospects for long-term stability (“Iraqi culture isn’t wired for democracy”), respect for their foes (“The enemy is smart, coming up with ingenious ways to blow us up”), and pride in their service. Some stories make clear that the technologies allowing for easier communications with the home front than in previous wars also bring immediate access to family dysfunctions. Though the loose structure and lack of transitions from one soldier’s story to the next can be disorienting, the overall effect is powerful. This edifying collection captures the highs and lows of the military experience. (Feb.)
"Up close war is a tapestry of individual stories, as painfully raw, improbably funny, and completely human as the soldiers themselves. James Patterson and my former Ranger comrade Matt Eversmann, have brilliantly woven together an image that is as compelling as it is entertaining." Stanley A. McChrystal, General, US Army (Ret.)
"This book will take your breath away, break your heart, and leave you in awe of the hard work, raw courage, ingenuity and resilience of the men and women who wear the boots. You'll hear them say why they do it, and how they deal with triumph, tragedy and living with the legacy of their service. Every American should read it." President Bill Clinton
"James Patterson is one of America's great storytellers. He is a also a first-rate reporter. He and Eversmann have collected stories of brave men and women who have defended our country. Each one is a profile in courage. Read this book and you will have even greater respect for those who serve in our military." Chris Wallace, anchor, FOX News Sunday
"Combat is hard to make sense of. Probably because, in many ways, it makes no sense. James Patterson and Matt Eversmann's unvarnished portrayal of soldiers is right on. Each of these stories of the personal experience of combat is unique, homespun, and honest. God bless them, one and all." Brigadier General Peter Dawkins, US Army (Ret.)
“A vivid and authentic portrait of life in the modern military … Powerful. This edifying collection captures the highs and lows of the military experience.”Publishers Weekly
“Urgent and full of suspense. . . In this wide-ranging, consistently absorbing collection, the authors cover the entire spectrum of American military action during the last 50 years, from Vietnam to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq . . . A gripping account of American military members’ experiences before, during, and after wartime.”Kirkus, starred review
Best-selling author Patterson (Deadly Cross) and retired army First Sergeant Matt Eversmann (coeditor, The Battle for Mogadishu), with Chris Mooney (creative writing, Harvard Univ.; Blood World), conducted numerous interviews with veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for this volume of engaging remembrances. Each interview is approximately four to eight pages, and includes insight into military life and those who chose this path. Several stories include women who, in addition to experiencing basic and advanced training challenges, endured sexual harassment and prejudice. Despite this, the interviews are affirming as the women thrive and become respected noncommissioned and commissioned officers. Throughout, common threads emerge, including always prevalent threats of sudden death from snipers and improvised explosive devices, calls to serve inspired by family members who were veterans, and how 9/11 kindled patriotism. Most of these vets suffer degrees of post-traumatic stress that sometimes destroyed marriages and lives. One interviewee founded Stop Soldier Suicide because more vets were dying by suicide than from enemy killings. Among some of the most poignant interviews are with members of the National Guard who served near Ground Zero on 9/11. VERDICT Readers of military service accounts will be absorbed.—Karl Helicher, formerly with Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Patterson and Mooney team with retired Army Sgt. Eversmann to bring together poignant stories of American veterans from all branches of the service.
In this wide-ranging, consistently absorbing collection, the authors cover the entire spectrum of American military action during the last 50 years, from Vietnam to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are some truly striking experiences here—e.g., Gen. Ron Silverman, a dentist, installing a crown on one of Saddam Hussein’s teeth (“He starts talking about the history of the Middle East….It’s not so much a discussion as a lecture”) or Col. Mario Costagliola’s work near ground zero in the aftermath of 9/11. Nearly all of the pieces contain harrowing elements, especially Jeddah Deloria’s account of being wounded in Afghanistan. The “Home Front” section includes stories by veterans facing unemployment or PTSD after leaving the service while “Red,” a human intelligence collector, chronicles his interrogation of Iraqi prisoners. The final section, “Memorial Day,” looks at the heartbreaking impact of soldiers’ deaths on their loved ones. The contributors come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from prep school to poverty, but they all demonstrate incredible pride and determination. One potent example is Lisa Marie Bodenburg, who fought entrenched sexism to become a helicopter gunner in the Marines. Many of the contributors come from military families, and a high percentage offer their personal stories of what they were doing on 9/11 and how those tragic events affected their lives in the following years. Narrated in the present tense, the text is urgent and full of suspense, and while there is some repetition of experiences, the stories are different enough to keep the pages turning. The clear, matter-of-fact tone only adds to the gravity of life-and-death events that these courageous Americans have endured. Even after their service, many of them continue to work with veterans and their families.
A gripping account of American military members’ experiences before, during, and after wartime.