A profane, testosterone-laced paean of love for the Marines and America and hatred for its enemies, which include Saddam Hussein’s army and Americans who oppose the war.
Martinez describes his adolescence in Albuquerque as a lawbreaking, school-hating, pugnacious gang member who, at the age of 17, abruptly decided to join the Marines. Readers may chuckle at his description of boot camp, which, with its sadistic discipline, fierce male-bonding enforced by mutual suffering and violence and contempt for non-Marines, seems a better organized version of the author’s gang. Bitterly disappointed to see other Marines sent to Afghanistan after 9/11, Martinez and his unit were thrilled to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His unit endured an exhausting month of intermittently bitter combat during which Martinez won a Navy Cross for heroic action during an ambush. From day one of the invasion, the author refers to the enemy as terrorists and points out how greatly they outnumbered his men, but readers may be most impressed with the Marines’ crushingly superior firepower. Martinez’s company suffered two wounded soldiers, but their rifles, tanks, artillery and aircraft killed scores of enemy soldiers and razed innumerable buildings to the ground. With victory achieved, his unit returned to the United States. When its presence in Iraq was required the following year, he could have accompanied it, but his term had expired, and he did not re-enlist. Although clearly a man who loves his country, Martinez spends considerably less time illustrating what he loves than denouncing what he hates: Americans who don’t deliver unqualified support of America’s wars, which include “hippies,” “liberals,” John Kerry and Anthony Swofford (author of Jarhead). He repeatedly denounces Jarhead, but the Marines in Swofford’s bestselling 2003 memoir, despite their adolescent horseplay, were vividly entertaining characters—and no slouches as warriors.
Despite his sincerity, Martinez lacks Swofford’s writing skills. Consequently, his book may appeal only to those whose uncritical love of our fighting men matches his own.