Official blather, cruel truths and occasional eloquence by Marine veterans of all wars, as told to Brady (The Scariest Place in the World: A Marine Returns to North Korea, 2005, etc.).
The author polls his own buddies from the Korean War, as well as gathering numerous voices solicited from an article he wrote in Leatherneck magazine, to answer the straightforward question: Why do Marines fight? Discipline—first gained at boot camp—is a common answer, as is the sense of a team and the pressure to enlist, especially if the father was also a military man. Brady includes the story of the privileged soldier, exemplified by Yale student John Chafee, who enlisted in 1942 and later served in Korea, becoming the author’s commanding officer and later a senator. He also looks at the humble soldier, like Jim “Wild Hoss” Callan, a country boy from New Mexico who hoped his military pay could help save the family’s beef ranch before he was killed in Korea. There’s a canned tale from Sen. John Warner of Virginia, as well as the moving account of Gonzalo Garza, a Texas soldier with Mexican immigrant parents. Gen. Peter Pace became the first Marine to be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly grew up amid gang violence in the city, joined the Marines like his three older brothers and then became a cop. Fortunately, Brady doesn’t completely whitewash the language of these hard-nosed vets—take George Howe’s account of fighting in North China in 1936 and watching “Marines pulling gold teeth out of the Jap mouths with pliers.” Combat engineer Cpt. Lauren Edwards, formerly stationed in Iraq, provides the lone female voice.
These inspirational tales cover as many Marine experiences as Brady can pack in.