Strife-torn Lebanon in the early '80s, during the period when the Marines were there on a calamitous peacekeeping mission, is the setting for a bleakly affecting (if occasionally talky) debut from a former NCO who served in this lovely, treacherous land. David Griffin, a sergeant in an infantry unit living in the trenches ringing Beirut's seaside airport, has been in the USMC almost eight years without a chance to prove himself in combat. Frustrated by the ambiguities of a conflict in which he and his squad (bound by stringent rules of engagement) must exercise restraint while drawing fire from all sides, the career Marine is constantly torn between his fidelity to the Corps and an urge to fight back. Detailed to help in a rescue effort at the American Embassy, which has been bombed by local agents of an elusive Syrian Army officer, Griffin continues to chafe against the restrictions. In the hills outside the shell-shocked city, where he's been sent to escort forward observers back to US lines, Griffin deliberately provokes an arrogant militia chieftain and decimates his opponent's troops in the ensuing engagement. Back in camp, a vengeful first sergeant convinces Griffin's superiors to conduct an inquiry into the unauthorized encounter. Meantime, the Syrian officer targets the building used by the Marines as a barracks and office. On his orders, an explosives-laden truck levels the lightly defended complex. Almost 300 Marines die, and Downs wreaks violent vengeance upon a squad of snipers trying to take advantage of the confusion. At the close, a dozen years later, Downs (now married to the girl he left behind, and the father of two young children) is slowly reconciling himself to the losses of his youth. A haunting slice of military life that unsparingly catalogues the risks, rewards, pain, and joys of casting one's lot with warriors.