Personal "war" memoirs, diaries, and journals have a rich and powerful literary tradition dating from Herodotus. Every war has its chroniclers from Caesar's Gaullic Wars, Tennyson's "Charge Of The Light Brigade", Sassoon's Memoir Of An Infantry Officer, Audie Murphy's To Hell And Back and Sledge's With The Old Breed to Vietnam's Tim O'Brien, Phillip Caputo, and W.D. Ehrhart. For an "Iraq War" bibliography, I highly recommend Ryan Smithson's story. It should be in every high school library and is a must read for any high school student interested in war stories and/or considering a military career.
Its honest, free-flowing narrative is chronological from enlisting out of high school to ending his tour in Iraq to returning to his young wife and getting on with his life. Army's basic training has three phases: "The drill sergeants break us down, build us up, break us down again, and then build us up again." Once deployed, the author takes the reader through a series of vivid battle encounters or firefights such as, "Two blown-up Humvees...They're black and charred...The smell is the first thing you notice...It reminds me of ham, but I know that's not what it is." and "Whoosh; BOOM. This mortar lands behind me aways. The ground shakes. Think being chased by a T. Rex. Where will the next one land? I wonder."
Of course, no one can fight in a country without being affected by its inhabitants. Ryan offers us with a window into the people and culture of Iraq. As he concludes, "These kids are the future of Iraq. They're the ones who'll decide whether or not this war means anything....one child at a time, that's how we make a difference. That's the only way we come out of this mess feeling like it is worth something." Towards the end of the book as he is adjusting to the home front, he reminisces on both the escape value of books during his tour--picture a combat soldier reading Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by flashlight in his sleeping bag, and their therapeutic value of hope, faith, healing, and inspiration for many future life experiences beyond Iraq. Yes, the kid will be alright!
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian.