The heavy toll of fighting on two fronts, as experienced by the first U.S. Military Academy class to graduate into active combat since Vietnam.
West Point’s 2002 graduates were special, points out the author, a former Army reserve officer who reported from Iraq for the Washington Post in 2007. Their graduation coincided with the Academy’s celebration of its bicentennial, but these new lieutenants were also headed for a war in progress. The Point broke with tradition by allowing the class of 2002 to stay in their original companies for all four years, instead of reassigning them to new companies halfway through. An unusual camaraderie and closeness was the result, Murphy notes. He plumbed these associations for several years to produce this slice of military life that focuses on a handful of 2002 classmates, most acquainted with each other, who endured as many as three deployments to the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Affable Californian Todd Bryant opted for an armored brigade that the Army actually sent to Iraq without its tanks; married and a new father, Bryant died in a patrolling Humvee hit by an IED. Drew Sloan from Arkansas was luckier in Afghanistan, but wounds suffered in a Taliban attack required more than a year of multiple surgeries and left his face and body scarred. Murphy stresses that these young Army officers, often leading platoons into hostile territory day after day, made the sacrifices and suffered the brunt of a brutal, violent conflict that America tried its best to ignore, marked as it was by mismanagement at multiple levels and actively opposed by many from the start.
Lacks structure and conclusiveness, but effectively underscores the widely reported disaffection of recent West Point classes with the military.