Monday, April 09, 2007

Review - Letters from the Front Lines

Bryan Catherman is a journalist and budding television news anchor. He's a Gulf War veteran, keeping a close eye on the troops. He's also an ace reviewer. I'll be featuring Bryan's reviews periodically on this blog. Check out Bryan's Blog here.

REVIEW: Letters from the Front Lines: Iraq and Afghanistan
By Rear Admiral Stuart Franklin Platt, USN Ret., with Duffrey Sigurdson
Granville Island Publishing
(Hardback) ISBN 1-894694-48-1 and 978-1-894694-48-3
Buy at

Letters from the Front Lines is a compilation of war letters, e-mails, and blogs from soldiers, sailors, marines, and even one civilian mom. Although there are other letter-type books, this one is valuable because each chapter is comprised of one person’s letters from one person’s perspective of the war and the events that play out in a combat zone. The book is neither pro nor anti-war; it’s simply what it is.

In fairness, I should say that my letters make up Chapter 3. I won’t review my own chapter and as far as I know, none of the contributors will receive any financial returns from the book. Yes, I do hold a bias; however, I wanted to share my thoughts on the impact of the other contributors and the book as a whole.

Letters from the Front Lines is a valuable read for anybody trying to understand war from the perspective of those who fight it. Letters come from low-ranking enlisted and high-ranking brass alike. E-mails and blogs start early in the war on terror and span well past the first Iraq election. Some letters cover detailed political thoughts while others talk about the food and dust storms. Many letters carry a hint of missing life back home, but all understand the importance of service and duty. Not every author is for the war. These un-edited letters share the raw emotion found in war, even if they don’t share the war itself.

Many different perspectives are shared. Brian Baldrate writes about the same time I was there. He had little hesitation sharing things that may have scared his family back home. I, on the other hand, found it far easier to write about non-war items to let my family know I was safe but not frighten them at the same time. Officer write about the larger perspectives of war while the enlisted, those in the trenches, talk about duty.

I loved most of this book because a war fighter myself, I could relate to the emotion shared in Letters from the Front Lines. People ask me about war. My recommendation is that they read this book.

Contributors include SGT Chris McCarthy USMC (Chapter 1: The View From Here), CPT Brian Baldrate US Army (Chapter 2: Law and Order), SSG Bryan Catherman US Army (Chapter 3: The Other Side of the Sandbox), SGT Chris Missick US Army (Chapter 4: A Line in the Sand), CPT John Upperman Texas National Guard (Chapter 5: Who’s Your Baghdaddy?), SGT David S. Bateman USMC (Chapter 6 Devil Dog), LTC Dan Hokanson National Security Fellow at Harvard University (Chapter 7: Citizen Soldiers), Karey Keel-Stidham Marine Mother (Chapter 8: Devil Dogma), MAJ Eric Rydbom US Army (Chapter 9: Letters to America), Vice Admiral J.D. McCarthy and CPT Kurt Kunkel USN (Chapter 10: The View From Here), Rear Admiral Robert Conway Jr. USN (Chapter 11: Transformation- Part One), Brigadier General Mike Regner USMC (Chapter 12: Transformation- Part Two), and Major General Kevin Kuklok USMC (Chapter 13: Eight Months in the Palace).

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