Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/4/28
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They are the troops that nobody wants to see, carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear. Since the start of the war in Iraq, Marines like Major Steve Beck found themselves charged with a mission they never asked for and one for which there can be no training: casualty notification. In Final Salute, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Sheeler weaves together the stories of the fallen, the broken homes they have left behind, and one man's effort to help heal the wounds of those left grieving. But it is not a book about war, politics, or liberal vs. conservative. Achingly beautiful and honest, it is a book that every American-every human-can embrace.
" One of the great underreported stories of the Iraq war."
-Janet Maslin, The New York Times
" A must-read account."
-The Wall Street Journal
" A powerful counterpoint to the impersonal statistics and verbal camouflage of military euphemisms that sanitize the true horror of war and dehumanize those who serve."
-The Washington Post Book World
Jim Sheeler is the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism and Media Writing at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of a Pulitzer Prize–winning newspaper feature on the war in Iraq that led to a book, Final Salute, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award in nonfiction.
Through the eyes of those who have to perform the horrible task of notifying the next of kin of the death of their loved ones, the book tells the story of several soldiers, marines, and sailors who didn't make it home. One comes to know them well, and grieves for them and their families as they go through this agony. Lives interrupted, cut short. Children who will never know their fathers. Young war widows trying to survive. Parents who must bury a child. All this in the aftermath of "the knock" on the door. The pictures almost take your breath away.
This book is not about glory, not about conquest. In the end, I think it is about loss and love...the love of family members, the love of comrades in arms, the love of Country. As Memorial Day draws near, the sacrifices these people made, on both sides of "the knock" should never be forgotten. This is not an easy book, but you shouldn't miss it.
I spent most of the book crying. (The color pictures in the middle of the book are extremely moving too.) No matter what you think about the war in Iraq, you need to remember the troops. The book is inspiring because of the obvious sense of honor among members of the military. A couple of typos at the beginning made me cringe, but the rest of the book is flawless. The format of very short chapters annoyed me somewhat - pulling me out of the flow of the story every time - and it's clear the author is a journalist, used to shorter features rather than book-length work, but that is a minor detail. The book made me feel grateful, humbled, and proud of our soldiers.
The writing is spare, simple and filled with emotion: not the author's, but those of the families whose sons (husbands and fathers) were killed in the line of duty and who consented to be part of this story. The photographs are just as heartbreaking in their understated way.
There is one other aspect to this story that makes it overwhelmingly compelling and touching beyond words: the commitment, love, dedication and honor of the Marines whose duty it is to inform the families and be with them throughout the long, sad days to come. I will never think of the Marine motto of "Semper Fi" without remembering the sacrifice and dedication of good, decent men like Steve Beck.
Regardless of your personal opinion of this war, this is the kind of book that is essential reading and learning from if we are ever to understand what kind of sacrifice is required whenever soldiers are put in harm's way. And if certain things (like military bureaucracy) are not portrayed in the most flattering of terms, perhaps they need to be changed instead of defended/upheld.
I am ashamed that as a country, we have not been required to shoulder our share of the burden that military families have had to assume. Reading about these brave soldiers and the families they have left behind should make us all try to do better.