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If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America's Time of Need Hardcover – October 7, 2008
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Its a privilege to call [Col. Jack Jacobs] a friend and an honor to recommend this remarkable life story.
One warning: the book you are about to read, at its core, is a story about selflessness, sacrifice and service, and it collides loudly and rather violently with much of our current culture. We are presently a nation of 120 million blogs and bloggers. Put differently, 120 million of us are enthused enough with our own stories convinced enough in our own wisdom and wonderfulness of self to believe there is great utility in posting our every thought, desire and daily movement on the internet, presumably for the common good, the benefit of all. Jack was handed a weapon and told to use it on foreign soil to defend his brothers and his country. As you read this, ask yourself which of the two actions you find more heroic I will never view my friend Jack in the same way again. I just didnt think it was possible to admire him any more than I already did.
Col. Jack Jacobs (Ret.) received a Medal of Honor for is heroism during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, vividly described in his new book,If Not Now, When? Duty and Sacrifice in Americas Time of Need. He offers a mix of no-holds-barred personal history and pointed observations about the demands (or lack thereof) the U.S. makes on its citizens today. Never self-indulgent or preachy, Jacobs takes an honestand often brutally funnylook back at his own life and forward to the future of the military and the nation.
Parade magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jack Jacobs retired from the military as a full colonel in 1987. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the worldÂ's most perceptiveÂand outspokenÂmilitary analysts.
Douglas Century is a New York Times bestselling author.
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The book is about Jack Jacobs's career in the US Army and afterwards, and although he often seems larger than life, I found his story and recollections to ring true for many of the military officers I have known. It is easy (and very human) to exaggerate slightly and always put oneself in a positive light, but those incidents in this work that might fall into that category seemed to me to be fairly inconsequential.
Jacobs is a courageous hero not in the vastly overused sense of the word encountered today where every little baby fights valiantly for life or somebody saves a dog stuck in a drainpipe, but in the sense that he made choices to do his duty to his country, knowingly placed his life at risk for his country and fellow combatants, and did not falter in performing that duty. For this and for producing this book, the author is to be commended.
Jacobs's description of what it takes to earn a medal is absolutely accurate (except for those medals handed out like candy for political and career reasons to officers): one's selfless act must be observed by higher ranking individuals or those they trust, the person requesting the medal must be able to write well, the potential recipient cannot have created enemies of those in the endorsement of approval chain, and the timing must be such that higher-ups are disposed to award the medal at that time for political or morale reasons. None of this detracts from the act itself, but does emphasize what Jacobs himself says -- that an given award really represents the actions of many soldiers doing their duty to the best of their ability and who would be equally deserving of the medal had the circumstances surrounding their actions been different. As one who has written commendations for medals and seen the process up close, I can assure other readers that what Jacobs says is dead on. For this if for nothing else, Jacobs deserves our respect and admiration.
The description of the National War College was priceless, as were Jacobs' comments on General Shinseki's assessments of the troop strength (much greater than Runsfeld's) needed for Iraq that were so flippantly dismissed by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Out history is littered with incidents of civilian incompetence and intrusion in military affairs, and this was no exception. Shinseki paid the price for being right as his career essentially ended at that point, but Shinseki did pull out all the stops in an attempt to safeguard his troops and accomplish the mission. At his level, Shinseki's humble acquiescence to incompetent civilians was inappropriate.
So why not five stars? Well, much of the book rocks along as if written by a journalist with personal color that may be interesting to read for some, but which I tended to skip over until another nugget of information popped up. Jacobs's career after leaving the Army could have been left out as it was not germane to the tenor and thrust of the book. Even his reasons for leaving the Army to provide for his family should have been left out as being almost a betrayal of the very concepts of duty and sacrifice that Jacobs presents as the centerpieces of his story. In effect, he says there are limits to the duty and sacrifice one should be willing to make to one's country. Maybe so, and I also resigned my commission for personal reasons, but I could see a limited future in the Army whereas Jacobs clearly was on the fast track to becoming a general officer where he could possibly make substantial and positive impacts. Now I don't mean to criticize him for that decision, but including that part of his life in this book was a major distraction to me. One does not always have to be brutally honest and display all one's warts, particularly when there is a higher purpose at hand. In effect, his inclusion of his career after leaving the Army made this work much less inspiring that it could have been.
All in all, this is a work containing much that should be learned by the American civilian population and especially its young people. I heartily recommend it to all.
The author Jack Jacobs and I are both Jewish... both our Parents were born in Brooklyn... both our Grandparents immigrated/escaped Europe's anti-Semitic scourge... we both spent our early years in Queens... we both loved the Brooklyn Dodgers and the sacred ground of Ebbets Field... we both played stickball and stoop ball... we're both Honorably Discharged Vietnam era veterans.
BUT... Jack is five-feet-four-inches tall and I'm six-feet-two-inches tall... and Jack is a **MEDAL-OF-HONOR-RECIPIENT** **THE NATIONS HIGHEST MILITARY AWARD** Jack is truly a giant among men. It is an honor to read his life story and review his book. Jack's story is as much about the changing of a countries persona as it is about his life. He tells of his Father's military service during World War II and the fact that nineteen-million Americans were on active duty, and as a boy, Jack never even thought of his Father having been a soldier... he thought of him as an electrical engineer because "the ubiquity of military service in a time of peril made it unremarkable. In the forties and fifties, it was rare to encounter an adult who hadn't been in uniform." And that's one of the points that Jack drills home in his no-holds-barred writing, that current day America should have the same spirit of service to country. When I was in the military I was a "first-termer-and-a-short-timer"... that's what a million of us young guys called ourselves. We were honorably serving our country... but we were definitely NOT going to become a "lifer"... which is what Jack became. And that is the part of the book that answered and alleviated so many of my deeply buried questions from my time in the military. Jack openly berates the decision making and logistics of the military then and now. All the degrading comments the "short-timers" mumbled under their breath regarding the oxymoron's of ?military-intelligence? is echoed by Jack... a lifer. Jack hits a homerun that applies to the Vietnam War... today's war... and business life in general... when he says: "IT WAS THEN THAT I LEARNED ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS IN THE USE OF ANY INSTRUMENT OF POWER, INDEED IN ANY HUMAN ENDEAVOR ON OR OFF THE BATTLEFIELD: IT ALWAYS TAKES MORE RESOURCES THAN YOU THINK. ALWAYS! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TOO MANY RESOURCES, AND ANYONE WHO BELIEVES HE HAS TOO MANY ASSETS HAS CERTAINLY MISCALCULATED AND NEEDS TO CHECK HIS MATH." Another absolute bull's-eye by Jack that was true in Vietnam and sure as hell is true in today's war is "THAT IT ALWAYS TAKES MORE RESOURCES TO HOLD AN OBJECTIVE THAN TO TAKE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. ALWAYS! THE D-DAY ATTACK ON NORMANDY'S BEACHES TO SEIZE EUROPE FROM THE GRIP OF THE NAZI'S ENTAILED THE USE OF ABOUT NINE DIVISIONS. AT THE END OF THE WAR, THERE WERE 119 DIVISION EQUIVALENTS IN EUROPE. WE DIDN'T START WITH 119 DIVISIONS, ONLY TO WITHDRAW AND LEAVE A SMALL FORCE BEHIND. THE SOLE PURPOSE OF THE FIRST TEN DIVISIONS WAS TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE OTHER 110." As Damon Runyon once said "the race may not always go to the swift or the battle to the strong, but that's the way you should bet."
I will leave the description of Jack's heroic *MEDAL-OF-HONOR-CITATION* for the reader to read... but I want to make clear to the world that Jack wears his HONOR not solely for himself... but for all soldiers before and after... when he says: "SOLDIERS ACT NOT FOR THE ACCOLADE BUT FOR THE LIVES OF THEIR COMRADES, AND EVERY ACTION THAT IS CITED FOR ITS EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM IS MERELY A PROXY FOR ALL THOSE FOREVER LOST IN THE MIST OF THE BATTLEFIELD. MEDALS WORN BY THE LIVING ARE TESTAMENTS TO THE BELOVED FALLEN. SOLDIERS FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER, SAFE IN THE CONVICTION THAT THE LOVE OF COMRADES TRUMPS THE FEAR OF DEATH, THAT THE PAIN OF ONE'S WOUND IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE UNENDURABLE AGONY OF FAILING ONE'S FRIENDS."
The word and title "HERO" is so overused in today's world... but this book is the story of a true American Hero... and through it all... Jack speaks honestly... and infuses a wry self-effacing humor... such as the time a reporter asked him if he had recurrent flashbacks. He replied that he did... but they were of a girl he had known in high school.