Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Review: The Gift of Valor - A War Story by Michael M. Phillips

This is a book I've meant to review here for some time. With Memorial Day fresh in our minds this seemed like an excellent time. I've read this little book twice and plan to read it again. And again. I don't very often reread books, usually because I have too many new ones to read, but this one is an exception.

This is a true story about Jason Dunham. I've posted links about his amazing life and a book description so I won't put all of the details here but he is his local hero. He has also become a national hero. I live in a very small town in NY state and he lived in an even smaller town in my county. With only one traffic light on Main Street it didn't take long to pass through. This young man grew up and went to school there, as most of his family had. He went on to become a soldier, to serve his country and to sacrifice his life for others. A true hero. His family has been honored by his many outstanding posthumous awards and achievements.

His story is inspiring and will keep you reading straight to the end. Even though I knew the outcome I didn't know all of the details until I read it. It's a strange feeling to know some of the people and the places mentioned in the book. I went to high school with one of Jason's relatives and my husband worked with a family member. The stores and the restaurants mentioned are the same ones we stop at or drive by almost every day. While those things are part of an ordinary life, the loss of Jason Dunham was not. I didn't know him personally or attend his services but no one around here could miss the attention to the events. They were grand and spectacular. They were professional and personal. They were fitting for a hero and so damn sad. Read the book and learn Jason Dunham's story. Unfortunately, it's only one of so many. I suspect most of us have our town heroes that we've lost. It's even more tragic how many have lost their own personal heroes.

So I'm mentioning this book now to remind others, as well as myself, that Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring. I've mentioned the word heroes so many times here but there is no better word for those who take on this mission in life. We've been blessed to have many heroes protecting us and we should never forget them.

(From Barnes & Noble)


Obscured by the ideological fog of war is a basic fact: Every day ordinary young Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq, with the same bravery, honor, and sense of duty that have distinguished the best American soldiers throughout history. One of these was Jason Dunham, a Marine corporal from the one-stoplight town of Scio, New York, whose stunning story reporter Michael M. Phillips discovered while he was embedded with a Marine infantry battalion in the Iraqi desert. Corporal Dunham was on patrol in the town of Husaybah, near the Syrian border, on April 14, 2004 when a black-clad Iraqi leaped out of a car and grabbed him around his neck. Fighting hand-to-hand in the dirt, Dunham saw his attacker drop a grenade and made the instantaneous decision to place his own helmet over the explosive in the hope of containing the blast and protecting the men beside him. When the smoke cleared, Dunham was laying facedown in his own blood, shrapnel embedded in his brain, and his Kevlar helmet was shredded. The Marines next to him were seriously wounded, but alive. Dunham became the first soldier in Iraq nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. If the president approves it, Dunham’s act of courage will be the first to merit the Medal of Honor in eleven years.

Phillips’s minute-by-minute chronicle of the chaotic fighting that raged throughout Husaybah and culminated in Dunham’s injury provides a grunt’s-eye view of war as it’s being fought today—fear, confusion, bravery, and suffering set against a brotherhood forged in combat. His account of Dunham’s eight-day struggle to make it homealive and of his parents’ decision to remove their son from life support vividly illustrates the cold brutality of war and the fragile humanity of those who fight it.

Michael M. Phillips first told Dunham’s story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, where it prompted an outpouring from readers unlike anything Phillips and his editors had ever seen. According to Phillips, “I received hundreds of letters.…At least half of the letter writers were crying as they wrote—for the Dunhams’ loss, for Jason’s sacrifice, perhaps even for their own feeling of inadequacy. Americans seemed to yearn for reassurance that U.S. troops still fight with courage and honor.”

Author Bio:

MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has done four tours in Iraq with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children.

Publisher: Broadway
Release date: May 31, 2005
Pages: 256
Price/format: $19.95/Hardcover, $12.95/Paperback
Type: Non-fiction

Honor the fallen: Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham from
War on Terror News: Cpl Jason Dunham, Medal of Honor, USMC, Iraq, Scio, NY

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