It is a solemn day. So many gave their lives defending the freedom of this nation. They may have questioned the reasons why they were sent to war (and I don't just mean our current one, so calm down, Bushites), but they went. They died defending our system of beliefs. They deserve our utmost respect and reverence.
I've often wondered how my generation would have reacted had we faced the cataclysmic events that catapulted the U.S. into World War II or had we been teenagers when the Towers fell on 9/11. My gut tells me the reaction would not have been as admirable as that of our counterparts in 1941 and 2001. I'm not proud of that. Perhaps that's why I have a particular obsession with the literature of war. From the Revolutionary War to the current brouhaha in Afghanistan, I have read a slew of books and I have been inspired and humbled by the sacrifices of those who were far less selfish than my generation. I mean what does my generation have to call its own? MTV. Madonna. The coke-addled 80's. We set the bar pretty low, people.
I'd like to share a list of some of the books that have had a profound impact on me as I've considered the actions of those who fought for this country. For your consideration:
- Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose - actually anything Ambrose has written is worth reading, but this telling of Easy Company and World War II is amazing. The HBO mini-series is an incredible companion and should be required viewing in any and all American History courses.
- In the Company of Soldiers, Rick Atkinson - gripping look into the early days of the Iraq War
- The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw - the generation I wish my generation could be. Read this and understand why.
- Behind the Lines, Andrew Carroll - letters from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War. Deeply personal.
- War Letters, Andrew Carroll - the first of two books that capture war from the eyes of those that fought. Stunning.
- One Bullet Away, Nathaniel Fick - inspiring story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.
- The Heart and The Fist, Eric Greitens - second story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War. Both are stories of very smart young men who could have been sitting in an office on Wall Street, but instead chose to fight for their country.
- Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand - incredible story of a U.S. Olympian turned soldier turned P.O.W. and his story of survival. I was so sorry I hadn't heard this story when I was in school. But I went to public school in Arizona, a state where you'll do more time for knocking over a 7-11 than for killing a child. I shouldn't be shocked about the quality of my education.
- The Cat from Hue, John Laurence - a reporter's ground-level view of the war in Vietnam.
- Final Salute, Jim Sheeler - this is one of the most moving books I've ever read. I wrote about it here. I defy you to read this book without weeping for the lives that were cut short. The subtitle of the book is 'A Story of Unfinished Lives.' Is there anything sadder?
- Lost In Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff - while not about a battle field incident, this book is an epic story of survival and ingenuity during World War II. Further proof why they were the Greatest Generation.
I am profoundly grateful for the actions and sacrifices of those who gave all for the freedom of this nation. May we honor their memory on Memorial Day.