Few stories break the heart like Shannon Meehan and Roger Thompson's Iraq War memoir, Beyond Duty. Meehan, a 1st Cavalry Division tank commander and VMI graduate, may as well have titled it "heavy lies the crown," as Beyond Duty is the first book I've read that fully captures the crushing burden of combat leadership.Meehan and Thompson (a professor of English at VMI), started writing the book after disaster struck -- Meehan, freshly promoted to acting company commander during an offensive into insurgent-infest Baquba, called in an airstrike which killed a house full of Iraqi civilians. Beyond Duty details that fateful day in the prologue, the rest of the story's arc rides wave after wave of hyper-realistic tension ultimately leading to Meehan's antagonizing decision -- send his men into the dragon's mouth and possible death, or safely negate a house full of unknown occupments with a precision guided airstrike.I've read my share of Iraq and Afghanistan war memoirs, God knows there's plenty of them out there. This, however, is the first "under the helmet" account of the terrifying nature of MOUT operations that I've read. Further, Beyond Duty forces the audience to come to terms with the immense responsibility we place on kids who are often times fresh out of college. The decisions Meehan faced were terrifying, yet through those unforgiving experiences, the light of this wonderful generation of young men and women shone through. The tougher the fight became, the faster Meehan ascended into a strong, confident leader. The great tragedy of Beyond Duty --and indeed it is a tragic tale-- was that after an uninterrupted record of deeply admirable and virtuous leadership, one bad decision completely unraveled Meehan's confidence and demeanor. Indeed, the pain doesn't stop after the wound has healed.Read Beyond Duty. Understand what we ask of these young men and women, the angry seas we ask them to navigate, the agonies of combat, and the crushing burdens of leadership.Shannon and Roger will be on the Ed Morrissey Show at 4pm EST, Thursday 24 September. WRKO Boston also has a must-listen interview up with Shannon and Roger, click through for the link.Cross-posted at www.op-for.com--John Noonan
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