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By Beka Compton
The Times 

Veteran's Day Reads

Book Suggestions by Beka Compton

 

November 11, 2021

The Things They Cannot Say, by Kevin Sites

In The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done, or Failed to Do in War, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks eleven soldiers and marines some of the most difficult questions: What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what is right? What can you never forget?

For each of Sites’ interviewees, the truth means something different. One man struggles to recover from a traumatic head injury that he said has ‘stolen his ability to love.’ One attempts to make amends for the killing of an innocent man, and another shares the respect he found for an enemy soldier who tried to kill him. Many of the men featured in The Things They Cannot Say had previously met Sites in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The book, however, is not all about the soldiers and marines. Sites shares his own failures during war, including his complicty in a murder, and the redemptive powers of storytelling that saved him from a self-destructive downward spiral.

Sites is one of the world’s most respected war correspondents, spending several years covering global war and disaster for several national networks, including ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, and Vice Magazine. He is known as a solo journalism pioneer, working completely alone, and traveling without a crew. He was awarded the Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism in 2006, and Forbes Magazine described him as the “brightest, best and most influential people on the web today” in the 2007 Web Celeb 25 list.

The Liberator, by Alex Kershaw

English author and journalist Alex Kershaw captures the story of U.S Army officer Felix Sparks. The Liberator follows his battlefield journey through the Allied liberation of Europe, from the first landing in Italy to the final death throes of the Third Reich.

Over the course of five hundred days, Sparks and his infantry unit battled from the beaches of Sicily, through the mountains of Italy and France, enduring bitter winter combat against SS on German borders.

After surviving the bloody march across Europe, Sparks was selected to lead the final charge to Bavaria, where he and his men experienced some of the most intense street fighting suffered by American Soldiers in WWII. When he finally arrived at the gates of Dachau, Sparks confronted scenes that robbed the mind of reason, and put his humanity to the test.

Felix Sparks commanded the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, one of the first Allied forces to enter the Dachau concentration camp and liberate its prisoners. Sparks was present at many of the well-known battles of WWII, including Battle of the Bulge, Battle of Aschaffenburg, Operation Husky, and the Battle of Anzio. He held the rank of Brigadier General.

Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell

On a clear night in June, 2005, four U.S Navy SEALs left their base in Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission: To capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold, surrounded by a small, but heavily armed, force.

Less than 24 hours later, one SEAL remained alive. Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, powered through a desperate battle that led to the largest loss of life in SEAL history. Told by Luttrell, Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Redwing, and the story of his teammates who fought by his side til the end.

Luttrell was blasted by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, yet remained armed and breathing. Over the next four days, despite being presumed dead, he fought off six al Qaeda assassins, sent to ensure that he died, before crawling seven miles through the mountains and being taken in by a Pastun tribe. The tribe risked everything to protect him from Taliban forces.

Lone Survivor takes readers through a blow-by-blow account of Luttrell’s fight for survival, starting with the training of the military’s elite and relentless rites of passage required to become a Navy SEAL, to the 1,000 foot plummet through shale and rock in the Afghanistan mountains.

Luttrell became a combat-trained SEAL in 2002, and served in many dangerous Special Operations assignments around the world. His story was adapted into a movie in 2013.

For the kids:

Pepper’s Purple Heart, by Heather French Henry

Young Claire and her friend, Robby, have decided that they want to be soldiers, and talk to a veteran about his experiences.

The duo are playing Soldiers before the town’s Veteran’s Day parade when Claire’s dog, Pepper, gets hurt during a backyard rescue mission. Claire’s neighbor, Mr. Jones, takes care of “Sergeant Pepper” and awards the pup a Purple Heart, which he received as a Marine in Vietnam, to wear for the parade.

Mr. Jones, a four-star general, teaches Claire about opportunities for women in the military.

(Ages 5-9)

America’s White Table, by Margot Theis Raven

America’s White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.

As a special gift to her Uncle John, Katie and her sisters are asked to help set the white table for dinner. As their mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table Katie comes to understand and appreciate the depth of sacrifice that her uncle, and each member of the Armed Forces and their families, may be called to give.

 

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