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Archive for the ‘veterans’ Category

A Veteran’s Day weekend book review.

James Wright. Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War.  New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, April 4, 2017. 464 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

I read this book as a son of a refugee of the Vietnam War and also a Marine veteran of post-Vietnam military conflict.  Although I have read some individual biographies and accounts of the Vietnam War this is probably the first work I read in which looks at the bigger picture of the conflict such as evaluating the generation that fought in Vietnam, an evaluation of the political landscape and decisions of policy makers, the anti-war sentiments and the experiences of the guys doing combat operations.  The author James Wright did a good job of weaving veteran’s stories, statistics, and social discussions and offered to the readers a larger picture of the political narrative.  Being an academic historian, former Marine officer and an avid advocates for veterans puts him in a unique place to write this work.

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A Veteran’s Day weekend reading recommendation.

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Alex Kershaw. The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II’s Most Decorated Platoon.  Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, November 22nd, 2004. 344 pp.

This Fall I started reading more books on the European Theatre of World War Two and this is one that I enjoyed and I’m glad I finished this on the eve of Veteran’s Day.  The book tells the story of the most decorated platoon of World War Two.  It is about the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon from the 394th Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division who fought the Germans against overwhelming odds during the Battle of the Bulge.

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Tonight’s weekend reading review…as always, because Pastors also need a mental break.

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David Smith.  The Price of Valor. Washington DC: Regnery History, January 1st, 2015. 258 pp.

I enjoyed this biography on Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War Two.  It is about time I finally know more about him!  I was wondering whether to start with Audie’s autobiography or this biography told in a third person perspective but in the end I thought it was better to start with this work by David Smith.  I don’t regret it—that’s because I enjoyed it very much.

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Cpl. Antonio Tellez, an administrative clerk with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds his 3-month-old son before departing Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, April 25, 2011. Over the course of the week, approximately 550 Marine and sailors from 1/12 departed Hawaii to replace 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.

I know the 15th anniversary of 9/11 was not too long ago but I thought this post by a Army wife was very insightful.  It’s worth the read: About what 9/11 means to a veteran’s family.  It was very moving for me to read this to think about what the wives of servicemembers were going through in the last decade and a half of wars and semi-wars.  I can’t imagine what this lady and her family went through.  I think reading this should make all of us appreciate a little more what the families of military service members go through.

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The last few weeks has been heavy for me in the ministry front.  Here’s a light reading review for the weekend.

The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan

Bryan Doerries.  The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan.  New York, NY: Pantheon Books, April 5th, 2016.  160 pp.

This graphic novel is a retelling of the Greek classic The Odyssey but with a modern twist.  The author is a big advocate of using classical literature as a tool help military service members cope and heal with the aftermath of war.  Bryan Doerries founded a project called Theater of War that presents readings of Greek plays to service members and veterans.  The book itself takes that same concept but uses the medium of graphic novel.  It tells the story of an infantry squad of Marines heading home from Afghanistan and their sergeant Jack Brennan telling the story of the Odyssey to help his junior Marines transition back home from war.  A few pages into the book I was already thinking, “Man, this might be good for some fellow veterans I know…”

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MarineFallujah

Happy Veteran’s Day.

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Note: For the next few weeks on Sunday we will feature a review of books outside of theology, philosophy and apologetics.  Each review of a non-Christian book will also have a section titled, “What’s in it for the Christian?” The Generals American Military Command from World War II to TodayPurchase: Amazon

This book is a wonderful study on generalship in the United States Army from World War two to the present with Iraq and Afghanistan.  The author has written in the past about the military before, most notably about the Marine Corps boot camp.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much the author Thomas Ricks has grown in his understanding of the military since his first book on the military in 1997.

The thesis that the author argues for in the book is that the Marshall concept of Generalship worked in World War Two.  To be more specific, the concept is on how the Army manages General, and how under the old Marshall system it was expected that generals would be relieved and fire in order for the system to work and battles to be won.  Under the Marshall system, relief from command wasn’t necessarily the end of one’s military career like how it is understood today; generals were moved to other command since sometimes those who were not effective in combat command but were better leaders in other area of the Army (logistics, training, etc).  The Marshall’s way of managing generals was very effective but since World War two the book argues that the US Army has deviated from this concept.  Today generals are never relieved by the military itself (though there are political removals such as the infamous case of Douglas MacArthur by President Truman).  The book argues that as a result of the neglect of the Marshall system this has led to a crop of many poor generals who negatively affected the outcome of operations, battles and entire wars, not to mention the waste of lives and money.  What’s worst is that there are often no repercussions for generals who failed; in the modern military a private who lost his rifle will face more punishment than a general who lost a war.

Students of military history would love the author’s discussion about how General Eisenhower balanced the various charismatic generals during World War two such as General Patton, British General Montgomery and General Bradley.  The book also surveyed the Generals in the Korean War as the first war that failed to implement the Marshall system and how various Generals blundered but were not relieved.  This would continue on into the Vietnam War where it was even more pronounced with General Westmoreland and other lesser known generals.  The book also surveyed the more recent Iraq War and I agree with the author that the beginning of Iraq the military had some pretty bad generals (personally, General Sanchez comes to mind).  The book even covered the Iraq War right up to the surge (the author focuses on the surge in two other books after this volume) with General David Petraeus and notes how long it took before the right generals were in place leading the war effort was also the same duration that the US military took to win World War two in the Marshall system.

While it was not the main focus of the book, I did appreciate the author’s contrast between the Army’s handling of general officers versus that of the Navy and the Marines.  The Navy holds their officers to higher accountability and how they regularly relieve officers for ships that hit ground and get stuck.  Unfortunately, the author said that the sample size for the Marine Corps was too small, but Ricks does note how the Marine generals led their Division out of Chosin Reservoir as a combat effective unit while an adjacent Army unit with poor leadership ended up being hammered.  Ricks also talked about how during the Iraq War the Marine General Mattis who commanded the first Marine Division relieved a regimental commander of the first Marines for going to slow during the invasion and that this became international news.  However, during world war two such an event was frequent occurrence and not even worthy of being international news since it was assume the goal of victory was more important than allowing commanders to save face.

This is an excellent book for civilians and military like.  I think those in military should read this book, whether officers or enlisted so one can get the bigger picture.  In summary, the book presents a strong case to modify the maxim that “Amateurs study strategies, professionals study logistics;” we may add, “The Army leadership must study management of personnel.”

What’s in it for the Christian: A big theme in the book is accountability.  Christians have stressed the importance of accountability, given our fallen nature.  Accountability is something that is needed even outside of the military—and especially in the ministry, which is concerned with matters of eternity.  The author notes how different officers have different abilities, and just because one might not be able to lead in combat command that does not mean they are not useful for the military elsewhere.  Christians who are familiar with the Bible’s teaching of spiritual gifts—that we all have different gifts though it is different from each person to person.  As a Christian, this book was also insightful concerning human nature and the art of balancing different personalities in a group or a church that one leads—it has challenged me to appreciate how being a team player is a virtue.

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