Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI

( 63 )

Overview

Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was just out of high school. At age nineteen he was deployed to Iraq. His year in combat changed his life.

This is his story. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.

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Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI

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Overview

Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was just out of high school. At age nineteen he was deployed to Iraq. His year in combat changed his life.

This is his story. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this raw and powerful memoir, veteran Smithson recounts his time as an army engineer in Iraq. As a student in suburban Albany, he joins the army after 9/11. While in Iraq, he's shot at and faces mortar attack, but he spends more time on responsibilities like methodical cleanups of roadside bomb craters-work that's as vital, if not as sexy, as actual combat. Smithson's interactions with Iraqi children and families, as much as with his fellow soldiers, drive the story. Military biography clichés-from the indoctrination of boot camp ("they break us down, build us up, break us down again, and then build us back up") to resentment of officers among the enlisted-abound because they're no doubt true. But the real meat of the book is in Smithson's dealings with American noncombatants, from the little boy who sends care packages to the pilot who insists on upgrading him to first class and his wife and parents. Smithson avoids writing either prowar propaganda or an antimilitary polemic, providing instead a fascinating, often humorous-and occasionally devastating-account of the motivations and life of a contemporary soldier. Ages 14-up. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Jennifer McConnel
Ryan Smithson was sixteen when the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001. He remembers being a self-absorbed teenager at the time, one who could not quite put into words his decision to join the Army Reserve. Ryan's deployment to Iraq two years later shredded his innocence, shaped his life, and is told here in this brutal autobiography. From boot camp to Iraq and back to life in the United States, this autobiography reads like the work of therapy that Smithson claims it as, overflowing with pain and confusion, populated with imagery that teeters on the edge of being brutally obscene. The power of Smithson's experience cannot be denied, and he strives to convey to his readers the lessons he learned while serving in the Army: that death ultimately defines life, that freedom cannot be appreciated before it is lost, and that chaotic evil is the necessary foil to all the positive aspects of humanity. Readers will close this book shaken and potentially nauseated by the casual portrayal of wartime violence, but they also will have an idea of what it is like to be a young veteran. Teens who enjoy stories of war will devour Smithson's text, but it is not a book for everyone. It is all too easy to miss Smithson's point and to see this book as simply an autobiography of pain, gore, and personal trauma. Reviewer: Jennifer McConnel
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Smithson experienced the events of 9/11 while in high school and responded by enlisting in the Army Reserve after graduation. He married his high school sweetheart before being deployed to Iraq. Once there, he worked as an equipment operator in an equipment platoon, and while mortar fire was a regular occurrence, the missions he describes were all about bulldozing berms, filling craters created by IEDs, and convoying lumber. One gruesome section describes salvaging parts from Humvees in which soldiers died. A few missions, though, were more in the line of favors to the local population than anything that helps combatants. Some of the author's most poignant passages are his descriptions of interactions with Iraqi children. Where he was expecting rock-throwing, he encountered barefoot, dirty children grateful for the water the soldiers gave them. It is these children and the villagers he met that help explain for him the purpose of the war. The book ends with Smithson's return home, his almost magical escape from night terrors, and his work with children in his own hometown. Writing proves to be his therapy for PTSD. There are mixed metaphors aplenty, crude and morbid humor, and other evidence of a young author, but it all works together to create a tough but powerful look at one man's experience.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Kirkus Reviews
Ryan Smithson was a typical 16-year-old high-school student until 9/11. "I'd thought about joining the military the moment I saw the towers fall," he writes in this profoundly moving memoir. Smithson enlisted in the Army Reserve the following year and, a year into the Iraq war, was deployed to an Army engineer unit as a heavy-equipment operator. His poignant, often harrowing account, especially vivid in sensory details, chronicles his experiences in basic training and in Iraq. "Only after we have been completely destroyed can we begin to find ourselves," Smithson writes of basic training, offering an unflinchingly honest portrait of the physical and psychological brutality of that experience. His account of his tour of duty in Iraq is no less compelling. He lucidly recounts the intensity of battle and the pain of losing comrades. For Smithson, the war is a source of personal enlightenment, and this memoir is a remarkable, deeply penetrating read that will compel teens to reflect on their own thoughts about duty, patriotism and sacrifice. (Memoir. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061664717
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 321
  • Sales rank: 65,877
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq as an engineer at the age of nineteen. Upon returning, he earned an AAS degree in criminal justice. Specialist Smithson doesn't know if he'll be deployed again. He currently works for the American Red Cross as a mobile unit assistant and lives with his wife in upstate New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 63 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(48)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    A good book

    I think it is really inspiring! He made me want to join the army!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted February 22, 2012

    ReaderZ10

    This is a Great Book! for Military lovers. Or others, but Great book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Great!

    Had to do a report in my history class and i chose this book for some reason. So glad i did!! One of thr best books ive ever read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 23, 2011

    best book I have ever read

    Amazing book, best I have ever read, truly inspirational.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Amazing! A must read!

    Grea structure and wrihting. A must read!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 2, 2011

    A Must Read Book!

    The book ¿Ghosts of War¿ by Ryan Smithson is one of the best books I¿ve ever read. It is a true story about a 19 year old GI that went to Iraq in 2005. Ryan Smithson came back and decided to write an informative book about the kind of stuff that goes on in Iraq. The book has several moods in it, sometimes it is humorous, sometimes it is intense, and sometimes it is sad.
    In the book Ryan Smithson talks about the struggles of basic training. Smithson continuously talks throughout the book about the fazes of basic training. One is to break you down, the other is to build you back up, and the last is teamwork. ¿This is the longest nine weeks of my life¿ Smithson states in the book while at basic training. Later in the book Smithson goes off to Iraq shortly after he enlists into the army. He makes a large gesture towards his girlfriend to make sure that everything is OK while he is gone. She accepts the gesture and everything turns out fine. It is a very sad time in the book whenever he gets deployed because he is leaving behind so much stuff from his past, and there is always that chance that he won¿t come back. When he first gets to Iraq he is kind of confused about what he is supposed to do, so people teach him what¿s going on. He meets his team inside a camp in Kuwait, and they become very good friends with each other all the way throughout the book. Even the bosses of the team are friends with them, they all laugh and have a good time with each other, and their personalities just basically connect. After a while of the routine thing Iraq, Smithson gets informed that he will be visiting home soon for two weeks. He is very excited about this and writes several letters to his fiancée and family members. The weekend that he was home was his niece¿s birthday party, so it was a two in one party. Him and his fiancée Heather got married that weekend and went off on a honey moon for the rest of the time that he was back home. When he was leaving he was very upset because he was leaving so much behind, his wife had to move in and he couldn¿t help her unpack which was very hard for him because he wanted to help so badly. When he got back to Iraq he met with his team again and did the same routine like every day. Nobody on his team ever died, and soon it was time for him to go home for good. This was a very emotional time for all of them. They would tell funny stories about all that they had done together, and everybody was trying not to cry. They had been the closest friends for over a year and fought by each other¿s side, and now they were just leaving one another. When he got home, he suffered from a very bad case of PTSD. One night when he woke up from a night terror for a month in a row, he prayed and thinks he saw an angel. He hasn¿t had a night terror since.
    I really liked this book. I would read it again and again if I had to, but now it¿s time to move on. This book has made me more interested in the war than I ever was, so I might even read more books concerning wars. This book is up there with my favorite books as well as ¿Where the Red Fern Grows¿, and ¿The Outsiders.¿
    This is one of my favorite books. It is very up-beat and exciting, but it is also boring at times. The boring isn¿t because of the writer, it¿s because war is boring more than exciting. It¿s not constant shooting and battling all the time like movies make it out to be, and this book was very good at showing that without making it too boring all of the

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2011

    wow

    amazing

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted March 22, 2011

    Wonderful!!

    This is honestly the most magnificent book I have ever read. The story is is just wonderful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    Million Word Review

    The war novel, Ghosts of War, follows Ryan Smithson from his enlistment in the army after 9/11 through the end of his tour of duty in Iraq. Ryan Smithson was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened. This event motivated him to enlist in the army. The story starts with boot camp, moving to his first missions in Iraq, and deals with his feeling about the events he experiences during his time in Iraq. The story starts slowly as the author explains why he joined the Army and describes his training during boot camp. Once Smithson is shipped to Iraq, the story becomes more interesting. Interest peaks as the conflict in Iraq becomes more violent. The first person point of view is a refreshing change from the 3rd person journalist's perspective. This point of view allows the reader to understand why Smithson feels he is just another "G.I. Joe Schmoe" or just another soldier who will never be recognized for what he has done rather than feeling like a hero. I also enjoyed how the author shows the almost relaxed conversation between soldiers even when mortars are falling around them. Because Smithson was not involved in combat, the chapters with no action are somewhat dull and uninteresting. However, the lively conversation between the soldiers during these chapters somewhat makes up for the lack of action. Smithson's vivid description of the war zone and his surrounding make it easy to picture the harsh climate and the war torn landscape he was living in. From the hot, dusty summers, to the below freezing winters, its is easy to empathize with him. Overall, this novel provides an enjoyable reading experience about a soldier's life in Iraq.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2011

    Very compelling and very entertaining.

    Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson ***** Ghosts of War Ghosts of War is about keeping your faith in God and respecting your freedom. It is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence. Ghosts of War in a very educational book for mature audiences and gives a look into the real life of being a real GI in Iraq. After the attack on the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Ryan Smithson decided to join the military. He chose the branch of Army and was deployed at the age of nineteen to Iraq. Ryan is beaten down and built back up only to be beaten down once more by numerous drill sergeants during basic training. All this was done during what is call red phase. There are 3 phases all categorized in colors: red, white, and blue. Red phase is the crawling just starting to go through basic training. White phase is learning to shoot and how to use M16s and hand-to-hand combat. Blue phase is where the recruits graduate from training and are ready to be deployed. Ryan gets an unexpected deployment with no warning and has to leave his family for an entire year to go to war. I very much enjoyed this book, and learned a lot about the Iraq war that I could not hear from the media. I think that Ghosts of War is a very inspirational book, not to mention educational to any reader. It shows the hardships and pain of war, death, and suffering. Ghosts of War is a very organized, and very thought out work of literature. Ghosts of War is a very educational book and is the perfect book for the mature reader. This book lets civilians who have never seen war particularly in Iraq have a taste of what it would be like to spend an entire year in Iraq. This is an excellent read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    this book changedd my life

    you will never feel the same way about the way you live after you read this. the author knows how to pull your heart strings. and i thank god for the men and women like him out there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    MUST READ AND BUY!!

    bearly bought the book today and i cant stop reading im sixteen and thinking of signing up and this book is helping me a lot love you Ryan the book is a different perspective of joining and an emotional one

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2010

    Amazing

    An all around great book. The writing of his experiences seems so real, like I was watching it all happen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    The true story of a true American hero

    This book make me apriciate my freedom evan more. Makes me want tl join the army evan more.

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

    Posted December 18, 2013

    The true story of "Ghost of War" was amazing and i lov

    The true story of "Ghost of War" was amazing and i loved every single part of the book. It's so amazing that Ryan Smithson wanted to be a hero because of the attack that happened when he was a senior in high school. This book inspired me and many others to join the military like Marines, Navy, Army, etc. I highly recommend for everyone to read this spectacular book and especially  to war veterans and ones who are serving currently. I loved the book and there is no other book like this, one of a kind. So if you see the book "Ghosts of War" at a store or a library, buy it or borrow it and be amazed by this story of 19 year old Ryan Smithson.
    -NA

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  • Posted November 13, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book. I have read countless books about va

    I really enjoyed this book. I have read countless books about various wars. Most books focus on the "heros" the Spec Ops guys,(SEALS, TEIR 1) or the big battles or missions. This book give you a really good understanding of what the average GI goes through when they are depoyled to a combat zone. I never serviced, but talking with a number of my friends that have this book rings true to their experinces. The struggle he went through coming home after his deployment is what alot of my friends have went through to one degree or another. Highly recommend reading this book.

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

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Awesome read

    If everyone could read this book, they'd come to understand that being President is not all glamor and glory....but very hard work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Great book

    Dam terrist osoma bin bromen











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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    Great Book. Worth reading.

    This book is a fantastic look at the reality of being a soldier today. Very insightful, easy to read and follow. It is a great book.

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

    Posted February 18, 2013

    The book Ghosts of War was almost an inspiring book, it taught y

    The book Ghosts of War was almost an inspiring book, it taught you a few life lessons and how to handle disipline. It also showed how tough boot camp can be, in the book Ryan Smithson is a 19 year old GI and he goes to the army. He starts off by explaining the prosess odf boot camp. Through out the book he gives the reader an idea of how war is. Or at lease a general idea. I think the book "Ghosts of war" was a great Non-Fiction book, I really liked how the author Ryan Smithson told the story from his point of view since the book was about his experience in the war and the process he went threw. That included the boot camp process and how that effected him as a person and made him into a man.Something I did not like about the book was it was too long for wat needed to be explained to get his point across. somethings I did like is the fluency and Smithson gave some pictures in the middle of the book that were actually taken while he was in Iraq. Another thing I really thought was interesting is his writting style. I would recommend this book too other people if they are into the content of this book. it does have some inapropriate language but other then that it is worth reading.

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