Veteran journalist Eubanks (To Win and Die in Dixie: The Birth of the Modern Golf Swing and the Mysterious Death of Its Creator, 2010, etc.) follows the careers of two young men: one a cadet at West Point, the other a midshipman at the Naval Academy, from 9/11 to the present.
This paean to patriotism and a fiercely focused definition of manhood and patriotism has all the subtlety of a Fourth of July parade or a halftime show on Veterans Day. The author gives us the backgrounds of his two principals (Chad at West Point, Brian at Annapolis), beginning with a moment in the 2001 Army-Navy game (played only months after 9/11), when linebacker Brian tackled quarterback Chad—their first meeting. Then Eubanks alternates the stories of the two, celebrating along the way the traditional virtues of manliness and patriotism that these two young men embody. To the author’s credit, we do get glimpses of the men’s warts. Brian survived a court martial for sexual assault against a female officer; Chad acted like a pig on spring break in Florida (though the author can’t quite bring himself to characterize it as such). Both eventually end up in Iraq; the author does not question America’s involvement but does celebrate the heroism of his principals, both of whom won—deservedly—battlefield honors. Eubanks also describes the love lives of each man, both of whom eventually left the military. Chad tried a few things before becoming an FBI agent, a position he eventually left for the private security sector; Brian became an accomplished cage fighter then segued into running his own fight-training enterprise. Along the way, the author revisits subsequent Army-Navy games and delivers some play-by-play—of action on the gridiron and on the streets of Fallujah.
Long on heroism, short on analysis and critical acumen.