From the front lines in the war on terror, a former Marine captain’s lucid account of his transformation from privileged college student to fighter in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fick, now a student at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government, intended to go to med school until flunking a chemistry class at Dartmouth persuaded him to major in classics. Feeling insufficiently challenged by both academics and athletics, he gravitated toward Officer Candidate School for an experience he hoped would be “more transformative. Something that might kill me—or leave me better, stronger, and more capable.” He gets it. A grueling summer of training is a mere prelude to more elite challenges, where Fick’s teachers push him past the point of consciousness, instruct him on how to suppress panic, avoid capture and resist torture. Eventually, he makes it to Recon, the Marines’ special operations force. To Fick’s credit, these sections are every bit as compelling as his recollections of putting his training into practice, whether in Afghanistan just weeks after 9/11, where he helped recover a downed Black Hawk helicopter, or Iraq, where on his order—“Light him up!”—his platoon fired on vehicles speeding toward them. Quoting Plutarch and Thucydides, Fick’s memoir is steeped in duty, honor and tradition. Moreover, his commitment to the soldiers in his charge is unwavering: He took 65 men to war and brought them all back. Sure to be compared to Anthony Swofford’s profane, self-loathing Jarhead, Fick’s account puts the Marines in a vastly more flattering light. Far more than a glory-soaked collection of war stories, this memoir proves the ideal of the scholar-soldier as alive and well.
One can hardly imagine a finer boots-on-the-ground chronicle of this open-ended conflict, no matter how long it may last.