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Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives Hardcover – May 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1 edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420165X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201653
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Sheeler (Obit: Inspirational Stories of People Who Led Extraordinary Lives) pays eloquent tribute to the soldiers who have died in Iraq and their devastated families. The author spent two years shadowing Maj. Steve Beck, a marine in charge of casualty notification, as he delivered the news of battlefield death to families. Sheeler puts readers in Beck's shoes as he walks up to houses, delivers the knock on the door so dreaded by military families and tries to comfort distraught spouses and parents. Sheeler provides intimate sketches of the fallen soldiers—like Marine Staff Sgt. Sam Holder, who died while drawing enemy fire away from an injured comrade—and follows up as grieving families try to put their lives back together. The children left behind are often the most tragic figures: the young son of army PFC Jesse Givens asks if he can be a little boy again when he goes to heaven so that he can play with his dad. Dedicated to everyone who opened the door, Sheeler's book is a devastating account of the sacrifices military families make and should be required reading for all Americans. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Mr. Sheeler took one of the great underreported stories of the Iraq war and brought it to light. While Final Salute is not a muckraking book, it is still quietly horrifying. It bears witness to the ways in which casualties from Iraq are shielded from sight…. Final Salute shares Major Beck’s conviction that the Kyle Burnses of the Iraq war must be given the honor they deserve.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Never maudlin, and not out to make any political statements or judgments about the Iraq war, Mr. Sheeler manages to convey the toll on the families, friends and brothers-in-arms…. Final Salute will strike a deeply personal note with anyone who has had experience with a family member in service. Final Salute is a must-read accounting of that cost but most importantly a tribute to those who must bear it.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Powerful…. This gripping book shares the pain, pride, joy and sorrows of the families whose lives Beck has touched. It captures, too, the soul and spirit of the brave service members lost but never to be forgotten… No matter what your personal thoughts on the war in Iraq, you're unlikely to get through this book dry-eyed or unmoved by the story of Beck's profound dedication and the stature of those willing to risk it all in defense of freedom.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Magnificent…. Final Salute is a heartbreaking account of the human cost of these wars on the home front, but also inspiring in its depiction of compassion, heroism, caring, loyalty and love. This unforgettable book's pages are certain to be stained with tears because of its understated recounting of the human dramas behind the distant war story. Final Salute is not an overtly political book -- debates about the rightness of the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts do not appear. But make no mistake: This book should be required reading for any politician who plays a role in sending young Americans off to war, lest their lives be wasted through futile pursuits or devious motives…. Sheeler's Final Salute resounds with many such precious moments of life after death. It grips the heart and will not let go, forges new appreciation for what is being lost. It is the print equivalent of a bugler playing the mournful notes of ‘Taps.’”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“It is, at once, among the best—and the worst—books you will ever read…. Fiercely poignant…. Riveting and raw. … It is an achingly beautiful book that you will at once not want to finish but be unable to put down…. Final Salute should be required reading for all Americans.”
Military Times

“[A] poignant and powerful chronicle of courage, sacrifice, grief, and recovery— gradual, halting, and never complete…. The stories, however tragic, are important for Americans to hear if only to understand how much a few are sacrificing….No matter how tough you are, you will be moved. And, you should be. There are lots of heroes in this important book. Only some of them ever wore a uniform.”
Military.com

"Deeply moving... I would have very much liked in this review to have been able to recount the stories of each soldier because they are so compelling. However, space limitations aside, it is not necessary for me to do so, since Sheeler himself has done such a masterful job in doing justice to these heroes."
—CinCHouse.com

“A meticulously researched, and therefore fascinating, examination of the history of the notification processes involved in military culture. … It is an illuminating story of the evolution of the military, its effort to heal emotional wounds and to ameliorate the communal devastation wrought by warfare. Final Salute does more than honor those killed and the families left behind. It does more than speak of rituals, history and grief. It also tells of the many ways that a nation, when confronted with the almost unacceptable deaths of loved ones in uniform, finds ways to give healing and meaning to the loss.”
Daily Camera

“Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Sheeler (Obit: Inspirational Stories of People Who Led Extraordinary Lives) pays eloquent tribute to the soldiers who have died in Iraq and their devastated families. The author spent two years shadowing Maj. Steve Beck, a marine in charge of casualty notification, as he delivered the news of battlefield death to families. Sheeler puts readers in Beck’s shoes as he walks up to houses, delivers the knock on the door so dreaded by military families and tries to comfort distraught spouses and parents. Sheeler provides intimate sketches of the fallen soldiers—like Marine Staff Sgt. Sam Holder, who died while drawing enemy fire away from an injured comrade—and follows up as grieving families try to put their lives back together. The children left behind are often the most tragic figures: the young son of army PFC Jesse Givens asks if he can “be a little boy again” when he goes to heaven so that he can play with his dad. Dedicated to “everyone who opened the door,” Sheeler’s book is a devastating account of the sacrifices military families make and should be required reading for all Americans.”
Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

“A Pulitzer-winning journalist looks at the impact of war deaths on the home front…. Sobering, touching stories told with deep respect.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“In Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jim Sheeler pays tribute to the soldiers who died in the Iraqi War by bringing them back to life through the eyes, ears, heartache and hope of the loved ones they left behind… Because of achingly touching images… and the other remarkably resilient people we meet, Final Salute is not really about war, but about love and strength and grit and how, regardless of politics, we honor our troops to the end.”
Parade.com

"Jim Sheeler's Final Salute is an act of national service. Like no other book I've seen, it captures the human costs of going to war. Combat's pride and pain are here, along with the tragic truth that some give all, while most give none. This is a beautiful book that deserves, demands, to be read."
Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer

Final Salute is an extraordinary book, an exploration of a national loss that we badly need. Jim Sheeler writes with such direct honesty about an absolutely heart-rending subject that you will very likely read much of it, as I did, with tears in your eyes. And yet you will want to read every page, gathering along the way an intensely deepened appreciation and love for America’s communities, its citizens, and its servicemen and women.”
Nick Arvin, author of Articles of War

Final Salute is a searing and unforgettable piece of work from one of the most supernaturally gifted reporters of our time. Jim Sheeler has the heart and the talent to chronicle the real cost of war. With his quiet persistence and endless empathy, he guides the reader inside hushed and sacred moments that most of us can scarcely imagine.”
—Thomas French, author of Unanswered Cries and South of Heaven, and winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing

“Jim Sheeler’s Final Salute should be required reading for all Americans and their elected leaders. It is not pro or anti war, but instead a gripping account of combat’s price on the families of the fallen. Final Salute is also the inspirational and often heartbreaking story of the incredible, heroic efforts of a Marine officer to help ease the pain of these families. Jim Sheeler should be saluted for providing a heartfelt view inside the returns home from Iraq that too often pass unrecognized by the American public.”
—Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, author of Chasing Ghosts

“With his words, Jim Sheeler has taken what has been a very personal journey for all the families of the fallen and opened the eyes of the world to the tears and sacrifice we have made and the respect and honor paid to our sons. He has been given a magnificent gift of writing from the heart...I could not have been more proud of him if he were my own son.”
—Terry Cooper, mother of Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Slocum, the first Coloradan killed in Iraq --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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The book was very well written.
Paula Gerrits
This book should be required reading for all Americans.
HeatherP
Thank god for our troops and their families!
Sam

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By tides24 on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember reading about Woodrow Wilson's agony, as he prepared to address Congress, to ask for the US to enter WWI. All he could think of were the boys who would be killed or maimed as a result of his words. Witnesses said his face was actually contorted, perhaps a harbinger of the stroke he would have, a few years later. Before entering the chamber, he stopped in front of a mirror, and physically pushed his face back into a normal mode. In recent decades, one wonders if Presidents are all too cavalier about sending young men to die in questionable wars. One thinks of Lyndon Johnson telling the troops to "nail the coonskin to the wall" or George W. Bush in his flight suit, Top Gun, "Mission Accomplished" moment. "Final Salute" should be required reading for every President.

Through the eyes of those who have to perform the horrible task of notifying the next of kin of the death of their loved ones, the book tells the story of several soldiers, marines, and sailors who didn't make it home. One comes to know them well, and grieves for them and their families as they go through this agony. Lives interrupted, cut short. Children who will never know their fathers. Young war widows trying to survive. Parents who must bury a child. All this in the aftermath of "the knock" on the door. The pictures almost take your breath away.

This book is not about glory, not about conquest. In the end, I think it is about loss and love...the love of family members, the love of comrades in arms, the love of Country. As Memorial Day draws near, the sacrifices these people made, on both sides of "the knock" should never be forgotten. This is not an easy book, but you shouldn't miss it.
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Format: Hardcover
When I was in the military I was sent on a classified mission when I was nineteen years old. No one in the entire world that knew me, cared about me, or loved me, knew where I was going or what I was doing. I carried two fears within me during this time. The first fear was obviously of being killed. The second fear was of "THE-VISIT" that my poor, wonderful, loving, unknowing, Parents would get if I was killed. The horrendous, horrifying, ghastly, human reaction by a next of kin that has no reason to worry about a knock on the door by "CASUALTY NOTIFICATION", is too gruesome to imagine let alone put in words.

-----------------------------------------------------------

****************** "THE KNOCK" *********************
"YOU CAN ALMOST SEE THE BLOOD RUN OUT OF THEIR BODY AND THEIR HEART HIT THE FLOOR. IT'S NOT THE BLOOD AS MUCH AS THEIR SOUL. SOMETHING SINKS. I'VE NEVER SEEN THAT EXCEPT WHEN SOMEONE DIES. AND I'VE SEEN A LOT OF DEATH."
****************** MAJOR STEVE BECK *******************

This book should be read by every single American citizen. But, be warned; it is extremely emotional and you will shed tears. I am an honorably discharged Viet Nam era veteran and I consider myself to be a pretty tough guy. I have faced death and came out on the other side. When I got this book, before I actually started reading it, I went to the center portion which has twenty-four pages of color pictures that range from pictures of our fallen hero's that are depicted in this book, to their mourning families before and after "notification", to a pregnant crying wife, draping herself over the American Flag, that is draped over the coffin containing her husband, to cemeteries, to a ripped apart "last letter" home from a fallen American Hero.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine work of quiet journalism. Mr. Sheeler has written vignettes from his personal observations of our current military burial practices and rituals, from family notification to points yet undefined, if only because some of these counselors remain in contact with some of the families. These are matters of depth and duration.

These are his accounts of the daunting job of those who bring terrible news to the "Next of Kin", and of the next of kin themselves. Such journalism is difficult to do cleanly and honestly. He does a remarkable job of not inserting himself into the chapters. He was, by the testimony of United States Marine Colonel Beck, most respectful of the fallen and of their families. Bias may be inevitable, but I find none here to cloud or distract or distort these sad events.

Each story is only as long as necessary. No editorializing. No purple embellishment. With such clarity he lays before us so that each touches us. First each alone, and then in a gradual appreciation of the both range and the commonality of them all. They are moving and enlightening.

The only time you get a sense of this author is when he bares the events where he is himself involved. After all, he really was there and in contact with the families and others. He cannot deny it by omission. But as he works through the difficulties of not being that in-your-face newsman we usually read or see, he actually further illuminates the courage of these families.

I started off by mentioning burial rituals and practices. Mr. Sheeler has a keen eye and ear. He does much to record the ceremonial side as well as the personal side. Indeed they touch profoundly in his renditions. Things sometimes vary by service. He points them out to us.
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