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That Others May Live: The True Story of a PJ, a Member of America's Most Daring Rescue Force Hardcover – February 8, 2000
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That Others May Live is the story of one of America's most elite military units. The PJs--pararescue jumpers--are to the air force what the Green Berets are to the army and the SEALs are to the navy, even though they are less well known. There are only about 300 of them, and their main function is to rescue downed pilots, often behind enemy lines. They also perform civilian rescues. "There are no more capable rescuers than the PJs," writes Jack Brehm, a 20-year PJ veteran who penned this book with journalist Pete Nelson. "No one else knows how to fall five miles from the sky to rescue somebody. No one else trains to make rescues in such a wide variety of circumstances and conditions on a mountaintop, in the middle of the Sahara, or 1,000 miles out from shore in hurricane-tossed seas." Some readers will recall the PJs' minor role in Sebastian Junger's harrowing bookThe Perfect Storm; Brehm actually coordinated that PJ operation, and he tells his side of the story on these pages.
Most of That Others May Live (the title is a PJ motto) is told in the third person--an odd choice for a book that labels itself "autobiography" on the jacket. But it works well as Brehm describes everything from PJ training school (about 90 percent of enrollees quit) to family life (divorce rates are very high, even though Brehm is blessed with a supportive wife and five kids). The best parts of the book focus on daring PJ missions and include vivid accounts of, for instance, what free fall is like after jumping from a plane at 26,000 feet ("It's nothing like holding your arm out the window of a car moving at 125 mph. It's more like lying on a pillow of air, so restful you could almost fall asleep"). Brehm also reveals the startling low pay PJs receive: after a few promotions and a dozen years experience, he writes, they make "about what a high school graduate temping in an office can earn if she's really good at alphabetizing." Yet the job has plenty of other rewards for a certain type of person: "The stereotypical pararescueman gets a testosterone high from being physically fit, and an endorphin high from exercising, and then he gets an adrenaline high from parachuting out of an airplane to a victim in need of medical assistance, and then he gets a spiritual, godlike feeling of omnipotence from saving somebody's life, and then he goes to a bar after the mission and has a few shots of tequila to celebrate." Brehm assures readers that every PJ "will deviate" from this description, but the whole of his book reveals it to be a pretty good one-sentence sketch of PJ life. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The U.S. Air Force's parachute rescue jumpers (PJs for short), though less well known than other elite military groups (like the Navy SEALs or Green Berets), have an equally hazardous mission: rescuing pilots who get shot down behind enemy lines and aiding service personnel in similarly dire circumstances. This crisply written biography of a PJ, Senior Master Sgt. Jack Brehm, offers a look at one squad of parachutists, pilots and combat divers, which numbers about 300 men. Brehm, based on Long Island, coordinated efforts to rescue a helicopter crew of PJs who plunged into the mid-Atlantic while trying to save a fisherman during a 1991 nor'easter. Magazine journalist Nelson devotes a chapter to Brehm's behind-the-scenes role, which got only brief coverage in Sebastian Junger's 1997 bestseller The Perfect Storm. However, fans of Junger's book seeking the same high seas adventure and suspense probably will be disappointed by this workmanlike bio. Though PJs have flown missions over Kosovo and Iraq, participated in the Gulf War and saved the lives of U.S. servicemen in Vietnam, Brehm's exploits, at least as recounted here, are of a more mundane sort, like rescuing seamen in trawlers or a climber on Alaska's Mt. McKinley. Nelson rounds out his canvas with capsule accounts of the deeds of numerous PJs, and each chapter is prefaced with Brehm's first-person testimony, so we get a convincing portrait of a modest hero and family man who gives his life meaning by putting himself at great risk, as the PJs' motto has it, "that others may live." Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Jack Brehm is scheduled to appear on Good Morning America.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.