Boots on the Ground, Stories of American Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Edited by Clint Willis. Thunder's Mouth Press, New York, 2004, 304 pages, $16.95. Reviewed by Major Keith Everett, U.S. Army, Reserve.
Clint Willis, with more than 30 anthologies to his credit, edited this anthology of 22 accounts of men at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten of the stories are reprinted from nine different national magazines, seven stories are reprinted from four big city newspapers and the last five stories are taken from private sources. All of the stories combined tell the day-to-day struggle of getting a difficult job done at the Soldier level. There is no grand strategy or theoretical war planning in this collection.
Reading through the hodgepodge of stories of Soldiers, Marines, Special Forces Soldiers, Canadian soldiers and journalists, the common theme is the experience of war at the ground level. Here, simple mistakes cause disaster. The ground-level Soldier keeps doing his job throughout. Looking closely, lessons can be learned from these men. One story tells of an Air Force tactical air control airman calling air strikes on his own position. Defense officials later concluded the airman changed the batteries in his GPS and then failed to reenter the target's coordinates. The GPS automatically displays its location after a battery change. Simple. The story introduces the Special Forces Soldiers killed by this simple mistake.
One of the uplifting stories tells of Specialist Eddie Rivera of the 10th Mountain Division working his medic magic, running from Soldier to Soldier to patch them up, saving lives. Rivera discovers the bonds of the brotherhood of warriors, as he practically saves his unit, one Soldier at a time. Boots on the Ground is a good place to start for a ground level …