Boots on the Ground: Stories of American Soldiers from Afghanistan to Iraq
. Da Capo Press, $17.95 (316pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-587-1
Although not written by soldiers themselves, the 23 pieces in this soldier-centric collection offer a troop's eye view of the War on Terrorism, documenting the experiences of American military personnel on and off the battlefield. Willis's last anthology, The I Hate George W. Bush Reader, made his political inclinations obvious, but there's nothing overtly partisan in this volume: the editor's selections concentrate on human drama rather than presidential performance. Gathered from a selection of print and online sources--including Esquire, Newsweek, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and Salon.com--the articles tell the stories of soldiers in the Middle East as well as of their friends and families back home. In""The Marine,"" for example, Mike Sager profiles Lieutenant Colonel Robert O. Sinclair--a 40-year-old career soldier""known for his attention to detail and his almost wonkish expertise in battlefield tactics and techniques""--as Sinclair and his unit prepare for Afghanistan by training in the California desert. Elsewhere, Nancy Gibbs describes with sincerity and compassion the relationship between First Sergeant Christopher Coffin, of the Maine Army reserve, and his wife, Betsy. Part of a civil-affairs team,""the ones who hand out medicine and rebuild schools and are supposed to stay a safe distance from actual combat,"" Coffin was killed in Iraq, a turn of events Betsy could not readily comprehend. Stories such as these personalize current military conflict, giving readers a valuable firsthand look at life--and death--on the front lines.
Reviewed on: 06/01/2004