Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

( 21 )

Overview

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. ...

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Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
Since Mr. Sheeler followed the individual stories of several military men and their families (no dead female soldiers are included in the book), Final Salute seemingly qualifies as an extended human-interest story. To some extent that's what it is, if human interest includes the pain and frustration of surviving the death of a loved one (or breadwinner) in battle. But the book is given tighter focus by the man whom Mr. Sheeler treats as a central figure: Maj. Steve Beck, a marine who specializes in helping the bereaved…Major Beck's utter dedication to his job is one thing that gives Final Salute its strong backbone. This is not a maudlin book, despite the endless opportunities Mr. Sheeler had to make it one. Instead it adopts Major Beck's quiet decency in his conduct and his empathy for people in dire circumstances.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheeler (Obit: Inspirational Stories of People Who Led Extraordinary Lives) pays eloquent tribute to the soldiers who have died in Iraq and their devastated families. The author spent two years shadowing Maj. Steve Beck, a marine in charge of casualty notification, as he delivered the news of battlefield death to families. Sheeler puts readers in Beck's shoes as he walks up to houses, delivers the knock on the door so dreaded by military families and tries to comfort distraught spouses and parents. Sheeler provides intimate sketches of the fallen soldiers-like Marine Staff Sgt. Sam Holder, who died while drawing enemy fire away from an injured comrade-and follows up as grieving families try to put their lives back together. The children left behind are often the most tragic figures: the young son of army PFC Jesse Givens asks if he can "be a little boy again" when he goes to heaven so that he can play with his dad. Dedicated to "everyone who opened the door," Sheeler's book is a devastating account of the sacrifices military families make and should be required reading for all Americans. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A Pulitzer-winning journalist looks at the impact of war deaths on the home front. Rocky Mountain News reporter Sheeler (Obit: Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary Lives, 2007) profiles service members whose duty includes casualty notification to the soldiers' families, focusing primarily on Marine Major Steve Beck. The author followed Beck and several other "casualty assistant calls officers" as they performed the unwelcome duty of knocking on a stranger's door to convey the worst news any parent or spouse could hear; his text reveals the toll this takes on those who deliver the news as well as those who receive it. The Marines' slogan, "Never leave a brother behind," extends to this last duty and continues as long as the family needs any comfort and care the Corps can supply. Sheeler also gives the reader a look at other service members who routinely deal with the families their fallen comrades have left behind, such as Marine Sgt. Andy Alonzo, who supervises burials at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. On the flight that carried Navy Corpsman John Dragneff to Denver with the casket of his best friend, the author talked to fellow passengers; their comments expressed mixed feelings about the war but unqualified support for the soldiers. The bereaved are the most moving figures here: the pregnant widows suddenly deprived of the family breadwinner, the mothers who have lost their only sons. Sheeler often looks back to depict the casualties' lives before they enlisted: accomplishments, relationships with wives and friends, dreams for the future. An epilogue follows several families after the initial shock of bereavement, bringing the story up to date, if not to aconclusion. Sobering, touching stories told with deep respect. Agent: Simon Lipskar/Writers House
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143115458
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 359,310
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Sheeler has specialized in covering the impact of the war at home for the Rocky Mountain News since the first Colorado casualty of the war in Iraq. He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his story “Final Salute” and has won numerous other local and national writing awards. Born in Houston, Texas, Sheeler graduated with a degree in journalism from Colorado State University in 1990 and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado in 2007. His book of collected obituaries, Obit: Inspirational Stories of Everyday People Who Led Extraordinary Lives, was published in June 2007.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The Knock 1

Pt. 2 Reverberations 31

Pt. 3 Bringing Them Home 83

Pt. 4 After the War, Stories 157

Epilogue 243

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2009

    Very Good Book

    As an Iraq War veteran who lost a couple friends, including my best friend who I went through basic training with, I strongly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    Final Salute

    I wanted to read this book because my family has experienced a soldier's
    death while he was on active duty. I didn't think it would be so hard to read...and I stopped reading it before going to bed because the images I got from reading it were so vivid making it hard to fall asleep.
    In spite of that, I was able to get through it a few pages at a time. I
    cried each time I read it, though. I bought it mainly to understand what
    the Notification Officers go through as they inform families of a death and how they cope with the activities of a family as they lay their loved one to rest. What the Notification Officers go through is a form of love, bravery and paying homage to a fallen soldier all rolled into one.
    As I read the book I realized these officers are a unique type of hero who
    bring honor to the military in ways no one else possibly can. I recommend this book to anyone, especially those who think military people have no sensitivity. The honor and loyalty shown to the fallen soldier and their families by each branch of the military, as evidenced in this book, is beyond measure. I am so grateful to the families who allowed us to share the nightmare of losing their soldier family member, experience their grief,and the sadness of their days in order to paint this unforgettable portrait of the duties, feelings and actions of the Notification Officers and all ranks of the military as they
    honor and pay respects to the sacrifice of the soldiers who died for our
    freedom.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2009

    If A Man Doesn't Cry When Reading This, He Is Not A Man

    I echo all the other reviews. This book is one of the most powerful and touching books, anyone can read. It stays with you for a long time, as you really feel for the families.
    We all say, "We want to be a fly on the wall to know what went on inside somewhere". This book, truly, allows you to do that, as you accompany the men who have the sad task to make sure these families are comforted.
    If any American ever doubted their country and felt things are going wrong, than they have to read this. These young American, who made the "Ultimate Sacrifice" so you and I could go into a bookstore, died so you and I could buy a book, a cup of coffee, and live our life in freedom while they couldn't. And their famiies also paid the Ultimate Sacrifice by not having them to come back to.
    Truly, these stories had to be told. They are exceptional. I feel for the families. I feel for these men. No matter what religion one belongs to, one has to say a prayer for these men, their loved ones, and those that have given all before and after. These men died for us. Thank you for defending our country and my family. Words are not enough. God rest their souls.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Final Salute--Casualty Officers' stories

    A gift from a veteran USMC Honor Guard. Kept me reading, made me much more aware of how the families and the officers who must deliver the sad news feel. It has given me a new respect and admiration for casualty officers, as well as made my heart more tender.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    A kit

    A kit padded in...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Lilac

    Smiled. "Thanks."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2014

    Crystal to whoever is in charge

    Enters. "May i join?"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Shock

    "May i join as a Fauna?"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    Owl

    The flora looks for herbs

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Wolf to onyx

    You could be deputy at the midnight claws starting res 17

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Pc

    He pads in.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Frost

    Frost yawned, shuffling her paws.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2014

    Widow

    Sits alone.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    Stripe

    She sniffed the kit. Then Stripe slowly grabbed him/her by the scruff and put the kit in her den. (Leaders den)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    Onyx

    She goes to Result 5.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    Highly Recommend It

    I have cried many times throughout this book. I fell in love with it instantly. This book gives you a new prospective on what really happens. You start to feel only a fraction of the pain they go through. How hard it is for the families and alo for those who have to deliver the message to the family. You see what the soldiers go through when a fellow comrade falls or dies to save them. This book makes my love for our military burn even stronger.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews

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