In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, follow one GI’s tour of duty as Ryan Smithson brings readers inside a world that few understand.
This is no ordinary teenager’s story. Instead of opting for college life, Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer.
His story—and the stories of thousands of other soldiers—is nothing like what you see on CNN or read about in the New York Times. This unforgettable story about combat, friendship, fear, and a soldier’s commitment to his country peels back the curtain on the realities of war in a story all Americans should read.
In this raw and powerful memoir, veteran Smithson recounts his time as an army engineer in Iraq. As a student in suburban Albany, he joins the army after 9/11. While in Iraq, he's shot at and faces mortar attack, but he spends more time on responsibilities like methodical cleanups of roadside bomb craters work that's as vital, if not as sexy, as actual combat. Smithson's interactions with Iraqi children and families, as much as with his fellow soldiers, drive the story. Military biography clich s from the indoctrination of boot camp ("they break us down, build us up, break us down again, and then build us back up") to resentment of officers among the enlisted abound because they're no doubt true. But the real meat of the book is in Smithson's dealings with American noncombatants, from the little boy who sends care packages to the pilot who insists on upgrading him to first class and his wife and parents. Smithson avoids writing either prowar propaganda or an antimilitary polemic, providing instead a fascinating, often humorous and occasionally devastating account of the motivations and life of a contemporary soldier. Ages 14 up.