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.