From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Smithson experienced the events of 9/11 while in high school and responded by enlisting in the Army Reserve after graduation. He married his high school sweetheart before being deployed to Iraq. Once there, he worked as an equipment operator in an equipment platoon, and while mortar fire was a regular occurrence, the missions he describes were all about bulldozing berms, filling craters created by IEDs, and convoying lumber. One gruesome section describes salvaging parts from Humvees in which soldiers died. A few missions, though, were more in the line of favors to the local population than anything that helps combatants. Some of the author's most poignant passages are his descriptions of interactions with Iraqi children. Where he was expecting rock-throwing, he encountered barefoot, dirty children grateful for the water the soldiers gave them. It is these children and the villagers he met that help explain for him the purpose of the war. The book ends with Smithson's return home, his almost magical escape from night terrors, and his work with children in his own hometown. Writing proves to be his therapy for PTSD. There are mixed metaphors aplenty, crude and morbid humor, and other evidence of a young author, but it all works together to create a tough but powerful look at one man's experience.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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He lucidly recounts the intensity of battle and the pain of losing comrades. For Smithson, the war is a source of personal enlightenment, and this memoir is a remarkable, deeply penetrating read that will compel teens to reflect on their own thoughts about duty, patriotism and sacrifice. (Memoir. YA) (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
A tough but powerful look at one man’s experience. (School Library Journal (starred review))
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. (Publishers Weekly)
Unflinchingly honest. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))