Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

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by Jim Sheeler
     
 

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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 JimSee more details below

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.

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)

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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
From the Publisher
" 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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440631603
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/01/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
522,681
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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