Former Virginia senator Webb (A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America, 2008, etc.) employs hard lessons from his own life to explain his reasons for not seeking re-election in 2012.
The author, who also served as the secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, initially parlayed his Marine experience in Vietnam into a first-class war novel, Fields of Fire (1978), among other thoughtful works. In this memoir, he sandwiches his life as a baby boomer military brat (born 1946) between scenes of his leaving the Capitol office, where he served as a one-term senator between 2006 and 2012. Refusing any longer to be part of “an institution with a 6 percent approval rating,” he writes, he is nonetheless sadly cognizant of how distraught his own World War II veteran father, now deceased, would be for his son’s walking away from what his father considered “the top of [his] game.” Having moved around during his youth among a variety Air Force bases, largely under the care of his Arkansas-born mother and gritty, devoted grandmother, Webb had a spotty early education but was duly indoctrinated to patriotic values of hard work, physical toughness and self-reliance. Raised within a vigorous peacetime Army, Webb knew he was “born to be a soldier”—and what a solider he was, winning the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. From his acceptance to the Naval Academy’s class of 1968 to his time in the Marine Corps and shipping out to Vietnam at the height of the war’s unpopularity, Webb conveys the intensity of his training and single-minded pursuit. He has made peace with the “emotional tangle” of the war and is, overall, gracious toward his family and others humbly born and hard-striving who deserve a “system that guarantees true fairness.”
An eloquent military memoir in which the author seems to be grooming for his next move: What will it be?