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on July 30, 2008
Few people have been involved in as many significant US military operations over the past three decades as has LTG (ret.) William G. "Jerry" Boykin. From being a founding member of the Delta Force to commanding all US Army Special Forces he shows that a person can be a committed Christian and a soldier.

Co-written by New York Times best selling author Lynn Vincent, Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom gets your interest on page one and keeps it through the entire book. The book's structure helps with the presentation. It is divided in thirteen sections. Each section covers one of the stages of Jerry Boykin's life or a major US operation he was involved in. Each section is divided into short, action-packed chapters.

The book tells story after story of how famous military operations went down. The Iran Hostage Crisis, Sudan, Grenada, Panama, Waco and the Branch Davidians, Columbia, Somalia, the Balkans and more give great insight into contemporary US military history.

Jerry Boykin is a born-again Christian. The role of his faith is very tastefully woven into each story. You will not feel preached at, but rather have an appreciation of how his belief in God sustained and directed him through the years.

One of my favorite stories in the book involved Panama, the playing of loud, rock music and Manuel Noriega. The media thought the US Army was using the loud music as a psychological weapon against Noriega. The original intent of the music was to keep the media from being able to eavesdrop on the conversations between Boykin and the Vatican embassy where Noriega was hold-up.

The most insightful section was on Mogadishu, Somalia. It gives the real story that the movie Blackhawk Down omits. Boykin was the leader of the mission. He had to make the tough decision of leaving a man down in order to save others. He said that was the worst thing he has ever experienced.

Boykin has never been afraid to admit he is a Christian. Some things he said during the most recent war in Iraq upset people. He said that he believed God put George Bush in the White House. The news media quoted that statement. What the media didn't quote was that he continued by saying God put Bill Clinton and every other American leader in their positions. Boykin was pretty much beat up in the press over this. He was completely exonerated by internal military investigations.

I highly recommend the book. It provides fascinating insight into military tactics and life behind the scenes of Delta Force. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler, July 2008.
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I ordered this biography on a whim, as one of a dozen books on irregular warfare that I am using to review the thoughts of others before I publish my own book. When the three boxes from Amazon arrived, this book was buried under others, but was immediately the most attractive for the week-end.

Several important insights are available from this book:

1) Charlie Beckwith, whose book Delta Force: The Army's Elite Counterterrorist Unit I really enjoyed, especially the part where he refused to leave a British field hospital for an American one, learned from the SAS the most important lesson it had to teach, and brought it to DELTA: to be *truly* unconventional, to be *truly* irregular, you must be UNMILITARY. From this page (69) I simply relaxed and enjoyed a great account. I got what I was looking for, sooner than expected.

2) The 12-hour long march from point to point is a time-tested method of screening for individuals who have inherent resolve that cannot be trained for. I quote from page 78: "The Army can train a man to spy, shoot, blow things up, and kill with his bare hands. But it cannot instill in a man the series of two-sided personality coins that cash out as a successful operative: patience and aggression, precision and audacity, the ability to lead or fall in line. Above all, the Army cannot instill resolve beyond physical and mental limits."

3) In the above context, faith is helpful, and faith cannot be taken for granted. Early on I enjoyed the author's explanation of how he reconciled faith with a profession that wages death (for life), finding that every war is a spiritual battle. The author explicitly identifies America as God's land of faith and tolerance, and I agree with him.

4) On page 130, he concludes that some men are evil and simply need to be killed. I agree with that completely. In the 1990's when I first started advocating the need to shift away from the Soviet Union and toward Third World terrorists and criminals, I used the phrase, "one man, one bullet." We still cannot do that today, while the Navy and the Air Force continue to buy fewer really big things for more and more money.

I enjoyed every minute with this book. This is not a "shoot 'em book." This is, as the subtitle communicates, the story of an extraordinary individual, a man born and trained to be the best possible fighter, who found faith and kept faith with God and America. He is "the way it ought to be."

Here are some side notes.

Rumsfeld created the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence because he was furious that his Special Forces had to be "led" into Afghanistan by the CIA (see my review of Jawbreaker: The Attack on bin Laden and al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander.

George Bush Junior betrayed all of us in crucifying and disavowing General Boykin in the face of media lies and exaggerations for which the author was fully exonerated by two Inspector General endeavors.

Media--the out of control largely ignorant media--is the best weapon that terrorists and others who hate America can use. I agree with that, and I am especially concerned at the ignorance of both our current presidential candidates, neither one of whom can talk substance in the context of a balanced budget--and they get away with it because the media has no idea what the substance of governance is (see the free online book, also on Amazon, Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography).

9/11 struck the author as the opening salvo in a long battle for our own soul. I agree with the soul part, but the battle started when we decided to run the world for 50 years, very badly, while ignoring the spread of violent Islam funded by Saudi Arabia. See these four books:
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage)
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
Wilson's Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century

Other tid-bits:
+ 1 of three officers to make cut in creating DELTA. Peter Schoomaker was another.
+ DELTA pool was 118 of whom 25 finished the Long Walk, of whom 19 were selected (in the first class)
+ Boykin's dad was one of five brothers who served in "The Good War," three in the Army, two in the Navy.
+ He was 6 feet tall and weighed 180 lbs in the eighth grade.
+ Played guitar and wound up playing at World's Fair in 1965 (the thought, "well-rounded" came into my head--not a thug stereotype)
+ Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets
+ Drawn to brotherhood of infantry, inspired by Viet-Nam stories.
+ One of his coaches taught him that faith and reality could go together
+ Once married, his first child drove him to the Dean's List
+ "I really wanted to learn everything the Army had to teach."
+ Found faith for real in the Army, it filled a void.
+ He LIKED Ham and Lima Beans in C-Rats. That alone makes him strange in an amusing sort of way. I always thought of that C-Ration as one step down from bread and water.
+ He had his failures, in both school and the Army, but they drove him to excel and honors came his way when he bore down.
+ Aide de Camp tour in Korea got him to Viet-Nam for three months, and gave him a strategic understanding of the Army
+ Lost the general's dog, ended up running him down. Very funny.
+ Was one of the originals as paratroopers migrated into air assault.
+ Almost shut out of DELTA by the shrink for "excessive faith in God," but he connected with Beckwith in the final interview and got in, the clear message being that the faith was not misplaced.
+ Excellent discussion of the time value of instinctive shooting (with the necessary training) over aimed fire--life of a hostage, the first takes one second, the second takes two seconds, time for the hostage to be killed.
+ Beckwith understood the killing nature of bureaucracy
+ I have a note, this book is the anti-thesis to Colin's Powell's biography, My American Journey and a shorter different book-end to Hackworth's About Face: Odyssey of an American Warrior

The author takes us through a number of operations in a manner that does not compromise any tradecraft and is not tedious. I appreciated very much the light once over on Tehran (the students thought they would have to get out in three days, they under-estimated the timidity of the US under President Carter), Sudan, Graneda which was not a surprise and for which CIA had no intelligence of substance for the fighters, Panama, Somalia, and then Bosnia.

Sixteen pages of photos are in the middle of the book, all appropriate and helpful. There is no index.

I thought to end this review with several of the phrases from the Bible that the author quoted in the book. I bought Leadership Lessons of Jesus: A Timeless Model for Today's Leaders because it was on sale in the uniform store at MacDill, and now that I have read this book, believe that our Irregulars of the future will be well-served by being required to understand faith, and to memorize portions of the Bible, the Koran, and other Holy Scriptures (just think of the impact as shown in Lawrence of Arabia, when his completing a reading instantly won over King Faisal and sidelined the conventional colonel).

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 9.4-5

"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40

"For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40.31, faxed from around the world as he struggled to survive a 50 caliber bullet shattering a radio into his body.

Amazon won't let me have more than ten links, but this one, by Navy Capt Doug Johnston, is worth a close look: Faith-Based Diplomacy. There is an intersection of UNMILITARY, faith, and Irregular War: Waging Peace that no one in power seems to understand.
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on August 10, 2008
I'm a bit biased as I served in the same unit as the author although at a later date, but this is a proud and extraordinary account of one man's career in Delta Force and his strong personal faith. LTG(R) Boykin seemed to be a magnet to our nation's most sensitive "black" ops, tempted death on two different battlefields, and shares details of missions many of us in my era knew very little about. Boykin also shares his obvious respect and admiration for GEN(R) Peter J. Schoomaker, the 35th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, who for many years was just as "black" as Boykin. Even if you have read Beckwith's DELTA FORCE and Haney's INSIDE DELTA FORCE, don't miss Boykin's eye opening and awe-inspiring work. Well worth ten times the cover price.
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on July 14, 2009
Jerry Boykin was a, well, different type of soldier. Reared in Wilson, North Carolina, big for his age (six feet tall, 180 pounds in seventh grade), he worked his grandparents' tobacco farm during summers and played in a folk trio at the World's Fair in New York. Entering Virginia Tech on a football scholarship and inducted into Army ROTC, he was heavily influenced by two coaches of considerable Christian faith and example. During college, he married and became a father. Following graduation and commissioning, he reported to Fort Benning and told his assignment officer, "I want to go airborne, than Ranger training, then Vietnam."

Everything seemed perfect for Boykin - until the scope of his responsibility as a new platoon leader began to weigh on him. He rummaged through a box and withdrew his Bible. He turned to the Gospel of John, and the words jumped off the page to him: "I am the light of the world," Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Yet, he was experiencing a deep spiritual emptiness. Then he failed an Infantry Officers Basic Course night patrol. Until that moment, Boykin had trusted God as a sort of spiritual insurance policy. "But when I failed that patrol, I suddenly understood I had been relying too much on myself and not enough on God. For me, that was the beginning of a life lived relying on God moment by moment."

Boykin didn't immediately get his wish to fight in Vietnam. Ordered to Korea as an aide-de-camp to a general officer, he nearly lost his boss's dog, but finally arrived in South Vietnam in 1972, until the cease-fire cut short his combat tour. Returning to For Campbell, Kentucky, and resuming life as a garrison soldier and family man, he was confronted by a junior officer who said, "I've never been able to figure out how you can be in the Army and be a Christian. Lieutenant Boykin, how can you believe it's okay to go out and kill people?" Taken aback, and without a ready answer for his subordinate, Boykin sought the advice of his Pastor Bob, who said, "What you need to understand is that God ordained this nation to be a place where people could worship freely, and a place where other nations could look and see the foundation of that freedom is the belief that it is God who grants freedom to all men. He's called this country to be a light in a world of darkness. And He didn't create a country where believers could have freedom with the expectation that unbelievers would defend it. It's not only right for Christians to defend this nation, it's their responsibility. If God calls you to defend this country, He's not offering you a job, He's calling you to service."

Boykin heeded this call to service as one of the initial cadre of Delta Force special operations soldiers to places like Desert One in Iran, Panama, Mogadishu and the Balkans. Along the way, he was divorced from his first wife and fell into despondency. Rescued by a woman who would become his new wife, Boykin eventually rose to three stars and assignment as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. There, he became embroiled in controversy when NBC News accused him of having a track record of hating Islam. The reporter, Aram Roston, tallied the "evidence" against Boykin:

"You've made a statement to a Somali warlord that your God was bigger than his."

"You've made statements like, "God put George Bush in the White House."

"You've said that this is a Christian nation."

"You're an evangelical."

Boykin had indeed made all these statements, all of which were taken out of context by the national press. Asked by Rumsfeld how he should respond to reporters' questions, Boykin replied that he'd never cast the war in religious terms and was on record, in print, as saying that this was not a war between Christianity and Islam. Yet the furor in the mainstream media was unabated. Boykin finally called for Rumsfeld to appoint an inspector general's investigation. Boykin turned to his Bible and found in Psalms 13, "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" Realizing that a lifetime of prayer and service had called him to this point, prepared him for this battle, he engaged the fight for his reputation. Yet he would soon experience "the lowest moment of my Army career" when Commander-in-Chief Bush said, "General Boykin's comments don't reflect the administration's comments...He doesn't reflect my point of view, or the view of this administration." Bill Press of WorldNetDaily called Boykin "the American echo of Osama bin Laden."

Soon, the IG filed a preliminary report citing five charges surrounding Boykin's public speaking engagements at churches, two of which were criminal violations. "Lord, I don't understand this, but it's in Your hands," Boykin said aloud. Eventually exonerated, Boykin not only weathered the storm by virtue of his Christian faith, but by following the Special Forces dictum: Never surrender.

I found Never Surrender to be an exciting, witty, and deeply moving chronicle of a life spent as a Godly and good man in the service of his country.
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on August 8, 2008
Never Surrender is an insightful book which reveals the secretive world of Delta Force and the many operations it has participated in during the past two decades. More interestingly, however, William Boykin and Lynn Vincent have managed to give us a glimpse into the mind of a man who has managed to successfully bridge the gap between the modern soldier and Christianity and how that sort of man can make for positive change in the world. The media may have made Boykin into a poster child for the worst of the American military but his own words reveal him the kind of man any soldier would be honoured to follow into the breech.
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on March 18, 2009
LTG(R) Jerry Boykin's autobiography is not just an insider's guide to Delta Force's tactics, techniques, and procedures. Nor is it simply a contemporary chronicle of Delta's exploits in the Global War on Terrorism. Instead, it is one man's account of serving at the crossroads of faith and freedom... combat and Christianity. In his 36 years of service in the U.S. Army (15 of those with Delta), Boykin finds himself at the tip of the spear, facing off against sworn enemies of the United States during the 1980s and 90s.

But his battles do not end there.

Never Surrender is the inspirational story of General Boykin's struggles not only against those enemies - all vicious, most dangerous, and a few even sociopathic - but also against those individuals found on our own soil who would condescend to question his motives. And those who would find fault with his faith.

Sadly, in the waning years of his career, Boykin fights to defend himself against accusations that he is a religious fanatic intent on characterizing America's global war on terror as a holy war pitting Christians against Muslims. There were also those who believed (and who may still believe) that he was using his senior position in the Pentagon as a bully pulpit to proselytize and gain converts. A careful analysis of comments he made as a speaker in these religious gatherings easily refutes these allegations made by overzealous reporters typically representing left-leaning national news media. His words were clearly taken out of context. (Incidentally, Boykin was later exonerated by the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General.)

A fast-paced book co-written with Lynn Vincent, Never Surrender both entertains and edifies. Readers are treated to the character and uncommon valor of one of America's most elite warriors. As one of the original 3 officers to complete the physically and mentally punishing Delta selection course in 1978, General Boykin embarks on a fascinating career in special operations that takes him to the four corners of the globe.

Strap in for the ride!

From the desert expanses of Iran (Operation 'Eagle Claw') to the powdery white beaches and turquoise waters of Grenada ('Urgent Fury')... from the steamy, lush jungles of Panama ('Just Cause') and Columbia to the Mad Max-esque badlands of Somalia ('Battle of the Black Sea'), we follow Boykin and the men of Delta as they take down one petty despot and bloodthirsty murderer after another. These men are fearless and strike like lightning with ruthless efficiency as they fulfill the vision Delta's founder, Colonel Charlie Beckwith, set out for them - to be the world's most effective direct action and counterterrorism force. Page by page we learn new facts about how these missions went down without being inundated with operational details, many of which (thankfully) remain classified.

But there is much more to Never Surrender than mere war stories.

True to character, before each operation Boykin prays that he and his men are delivered through fire and horrific violence. His prayers are miraculously answered as time and again he wages war not against Evil, but against evil individuals. That this man should ask God for the strength to combat foes accused of murdering, torturing, and raping says a lot more about his compassion than it does about how he views the world. Asking God that both his men and America's imprisoned hostages be spared is a far cry from asking God to destroy the enemy - Muslim or otherwise. As Boykin ably points out, those enemies who hide behind a cloak of religion while murdering and maiming should not be confused with peace-loving, religious zealots.

Boykin's story is of a humble, God-fearing man who embodies Christian virtues and endeavors to live a Christ-like life. We even witness the author struggle with his faith as he loses good men on the battlefield and watches the national news media turn against him. Yet always he finds a way back to God while vowing again to never surrender.

This kind of faith is not controversial - it's inspirational!

It says much about the times we live in that a man of LTG(R) Jerry Boykin's stature and of whom we as a nation have asked so much should be second-guessed, even vilified. That his motives should be called into question, particularly during time of war, defies rational explanation. His term of service included enormous personal sacrifice: He was twice wounded and would eventually lose his marriage. Rather than doubt his motives, we should thank him. Is it not enough that this man for 36 years selflessly served his country and repeatedly risked his life while saving Americans and battling terrorists and criminals the world over?

General Jerry Boykin's life can be summed up by the following Bible verse:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (ISAIAH 6:8)

We are blessed to have such men who willingly go into harm's way to serve the cause of freedom. We owe them a profound debt of gratitude... a debt that can never be repaid.

Thank you, Sir, for answering the call!
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on August 10, 2008
Great book and great writer. I am so proud we have people of Jerry Boykin's caliber serve our country. Thank God for men who will speak the truth and give us wonderful insight into our military. This is a must read. I also realize just how important also the President of the United States is and we do not need to be apathetic during this election but get out and vote. Jerry Boykin has seen it all during his war years and he has led by example. Please read this book. It is great!!!
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on November 5, 2009
General Boykin was one of the original members of "Delta Force", he was wounded at the invasion of Grenada, was there when Manuel Noriega was captured in Panama, he was on-site Commander in Somalia during the ill-fated "Black Hawk Down" incident and he served under Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush prior to his retirement. Boykin is a talented story-teller and gives the reader a great insight into his spiritual life as well, and how he came to be a man of strong faith. He became controversial when he spoke at Bible-based churches about his views on The War on Terror being, in his view, part of spiritual warfare between the forces of good and evil as described in scripture. These statements of faith sent the liberal media into a full-blown swoon. He was portrayed as dangerous and a hater of moslems. Boykin was investigated but completely exonerated. This is clearly a very honorable man, who had the courage not to retreat in the face of severe criticism. If you dislike the current culture of political correctness, this is the book for you. Boykin is a soldier's soldier who never surrendered, but kept the faith.
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on March 19, 2010
General Boykin is a war hero but more importantly he is a man of integrity, faith and a role model for any type of leader.
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on September 8, 2009
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