Customer Reviews: It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace
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on May 4, 2015
Okay I have always been a sucker for war books and books about people who try to help poorer countries so obviously I was going to read this book. I was not let down by it at all and thought it was an excellent read. Rye Barcott (the marine in the book and founder of CFK) did a great job of showing the struggle that he went through between trying to start up an NGO in Kibera while juggling a career in the Marines. I also found it quite inspiring to read a first-hand account of one person trying to make a difference and succeeding. People often talk about doing something to help but to actually make it happen and be as involved as Rye was, it is just completely amazing. It just goes to show what humans really are capable of doing and that the need and want to help one another, no matter our differences, still does exist.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this books is how the stereotype of Marines (which I never agreed with) being aggressive and bloodthirsty was challenged by the true story of a Marine that was the opposite of those stereotypes. The books showed the compassionate nature and the fact that people join the marines and the military to help, not to fight and kill. The author does speak of a point you get to where you can either go down the dark path as a soldier or pull away from it and he explains that the dark is usually triggered by seeing too much evil or being so trained and passionate. I liked how he actually spoke of this internal conflict and when it happened to him and that he chose to steer himself away from the dark path. I think for him to talk of this struggle was brilliant and it helps you, as a civilian reader, to understand a little more of what these soldiers go through and how they can easily become hurt or broken.

I very much enjoyed the parts where the author was in Kibera and working to build CFK. It gave me insight into a world that I never knew much about and I learned so much from it. It is amazing to learn of people in such horrible situations (like living in the slums of Kibera) that are still so positive and strong and do what they can to try to make life for themselves and those around them better. Sometimes the jumping back and forth from Kibera and CFK to Marine life broke up the flow of the story a bit for me but I also understand that was what it was actually like for the author; he was basically leading two lives at the point and they did not always flow together harmoniously.

This book was well written, inspiring and hopeful. It is not often that you read a war story and finish it with a smile on your face. I feel like stories like this one are not told enough so we never learn of how much good is still being done and the strong desire that still exists to help one another. Reading something like this sparks something in the reader to want to do more and be a part of the bigger picture. I highly recommend this book and can honestly say that it is a story that I will never forget.
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on April 13, 2011
Rye encountered and writes of many strong women in his memoir. Carolina for Kibera's co-founder Tabitha Atieno Festo was one of those women. She taught Rye humility, courage and an "I'll never give up" attitude. Their relationship evolves over the pages drawing the reader into their dreams and fears as they create pockets of hope within the large slum outside of Nairobi. Another very strong character, Vanessa, who is ill with HIV, performs the selfless act of washing Rye's pants after they had fallen into an outdoor sump (open sewer). When he asks her later why she did this the response was a resolute "because I can." This scene immediately brought me to tears.

The main book themes for me were: the power of participatory development; the power of being humble; realizing that to assume what people need on the ground in developing countries is both arrogant and naïve; and the tone of his book being so honest - I think that this will be personally very good for all readers in forcing them on another level to really be honest with themselves...only positive change can become of that!
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on September 1, 2014
This is a wonderful book. The novel version, Matterhorn, was easier for me to read and a lot more compelling when the soldiers had faces and individual personalities. This is a stripped-down version - just the facts, ma'am. It will appeal to a different audience. I believe everyone should read one of these books, carefully crafted over 40 years by a Marine veteran whose powerful observations of the consequences of young people being sent into battle very well prepared for every event but those that affect the mind and heart when faced with the terrible moral choices very young people are forced to make 24/ 7 when in combat. A beautifully written plea for help for these young people when they return home.
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on May 14, 2014
This is a very well written book about a young man who wants to make a difference in a world very foreign to him. In this time of world conflict, where we all have thoughts of "how can I make a difference?" and "what is really needed?" it is a window to another world.

It also lets the reader know how hard it is to make lasting relationships across the world and how the issues of who can we trust, come into play. Most of us never really try this hard to do something huge and we sit back on our couches and watch the world news unfold. We see that those we trusted 10 or 20 years ago, cant be trusted today and wonder how our leaders could have been fooled so badly, or made such oblivious mistakes.

This book is well written and a good story we can all learn from. His work still lives on. Everyone should read it. It's important.
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on August 13, 2012
When a young Rye Barcott suffers an accident at a very young age, he comes to realize that his life has a very important purpose. That purpose consists of a life of service to others. As Barcott grows up, he sees himself joining the military and helping people in underserved areas. As an undergrad at the University of North Carolina, he joins ROTC and gets himself sponsors to travel to Kenya. In Kenya, Rye is able to see first-hand a level of poverty uncommon in first world nations like the United States. In Kibera, Kenya's largest slum, people live in unspeakable conditions--children playing near raw sewage, large families living in small tin dwellings barely large enough for three, young people dying of AIDS.

Barcott starts an organization called Carolina For Kibera, a charitable youth organization to serve the people of Kibera through sports programs. Barcott is able to raise funds to begin his project and is able to help a few people begin their own dreams. With the help of key people in Kibera, Barcott is able to help create a medical clinic to treat its inhabitants. As the time draws near for his departure back to the states, Rye leaves a handful of trusted Kenyans in control of his fledgling organization.

Barcott then turns his eyes to the military and follows in his father's footsteps in joining the United States Marine Corps. He graduates with honors and part of his future plans is to continue running CFK, marry his sweetheart, and to be eventually deployed to Iraq. The dance to compartmentalize his life begins and becomes a challenge as trouble within the organization calls him away from his military duties.

I enjoyed Barcott's insight on the world issues he is involved in...the problems facing the US military with bringing peace to warn torn places like Iraq while holding a gun is, to him, one of its greatest contradictions. He shares his opinions on Abu Ghraib, America's role in the world, and wanting to help bring peace and being a Marine.

Rye Barcott is young, yet he has already shown himself to have what it takes to be a world leader. He has grown and learned much through his experiences, he has done great things for those less fortunate, and I look forward to seeing what else he accomplishes in the future.

Excellent read
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on November 10, 2012
Rye Barcott's book touched me on several levels. During my 30 years as a field artilleryman, I spent 12 years overseas including a combat tour in Vietnam and eight years in South Asia (primarily Bangladesh and India). I have also been on several mission trips. I have seen abject poverty up-close and personal and could thus relate to his vivid descriptions of the slums of Kibera. He accurately captured the sights, sounds, and smells in such vibrant concentrations of humanity.
As the son of a WWII veteran, I could relate to his interaction with his father. My father never discussed his WWII experiences with me. After I returned from Vietnam, he may have been willing to do so. A major regret I have is that I failed to sit down with him as one combat veteran to another.
Rye absolutely nails the importance of local buy-in to sustainable development projects. All too often, I have seen well-meaning aid projects fail because they were top-driven by outside agencies and supervised by well-paid locals who tried to mimic foreigners in their dress and vehicles.
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on April 27, 2014
Well written account of one tough young man's success against stereotypical approaches to throwing money at problems and hoping they go away. A fascinating journey into one of the toughest areas in the world and what it took to begin to get a handle on fixing problems that challenge governments. Not easily done.
A grand account that deserves follow-up. Well worth the time to read and consider.
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on April 24, 2014
I enjoyed this true story by a young man with old fashioned, down to earth, great values--a desire to lift others who were less privileged, while standing firm defending his nation with dirt, grit and hard work in military service. The book was well written, well edited and a testament to Rye's sacrifice for his nation and for an African nation--all god's children. I recommend it to all.
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on November 27, 2014
The author works his way between the two worlds of the military and an NGO, and the wealth and opportunity of the United States and the poverty and lack of opportunity in the slum of Kibera. He shows how tenuous the balance is, and how difficult it is to draw a line. Stunning well-written book.
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on April 4, 2011
Rye Barcott got a medical clinic and a soccer league going in Nairobi's shantytown. He did it while a student and a soldier by handing the project off to enterprising locals and mobilizing the people of the University of North Carolina to raise funds.

The book is a wish fulfillment of what a baccalaureate and a junior officer are supposed to do, to teach and lead. It differs from other do-good porn in sophistication and candor.

The sophistication comes from Barcott's father, Schwartz, a Marine counter-insurgent in Viet Nam, from his mom, a nurse and field anthropologist, from military historian Dick Kohn and another anthropologist, Jim Peacock. It also comes from Barcott's peers, the cohort of aid workers who try not to patronize the poor.

The candor is a gift from God, or maybe the USMC. I have never read anything like it from an author fated to be a suit, a haircut, what the owners call a leader.

He acknowledges his father's generation's conviction of the waste and stupidity of the adventure in Viet Nam and that they blame it on the generals as well as the politicians. He conveys that he was sleeping with a Christian, Southern woman he adores before they were married.

Most of all, as shocking and unique as Marine poet Bill Ehrhart's specification of exactly which old men and children he shot dead for no good reason in Viet Nam, Barcott tells where he got all the money for his charity. Do-gooders just don't do this.

Inspirational, energetic optimists like Barcott, the CEOs with their happy talk, don't do it either. The realism about money is worth the price of the book right there for anyone preparing to change the world.

Beyond that training value, it is also literature, an update to Starship Troopers and the Forever War. Written like a novel, with reconstructed conversation that rings true, it has cross-currents and contradictions a person can chew on.

I'll write about it longer somewhere else. Buy it for a young adult to think about all life long.
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