To many of us, Memorial Day weekend has come to mean parades, barbecues, or maybe just the kickoff of summer. But the true meaning behind Memorial Day is to commemorate our military men & women who have lost their lives in service to America. After that barbecue, why not check out one of these books that pay tribute to those who’ve served?
Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley. The story behind the raising of the U.S. flag on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945, made famous by the photo on the cover. The men in the photo—three were killed during the battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, the adulation was shattering. Only James Bradley’s father truly survived, displaying no copy of the famous photograph in his home, telling his son only: “The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn’t come back.” (This book was also adapted for film by Clint Eastwood.)
Jarhead : a Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battlesby Anthony Swofford. The author weaves this experience of war with vivid accounts of boot camp (which included physical abuse by his drill instructor), reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. As engagement with the Iraqis draws closer, he is forced to consider what it is to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man.
Where Men Win Glory : the Odyssey of Pat Tillman by John Krakauer. Irrepressible individualist and iconoclast Pat Tillman walked away from his $3.6 million NFL contract in May 2002 to enlist in the United States Army. Deeply troubled by 9/11, he felt a strong moral obligation to join the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Two years later, he died on a desolate hillside in Afghanistan. Biographer Krakauer draws on his journals and letters, interviews with his wife and friends, and conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him to tell this story.
The Things They Carried by Tom O’Brien. A fictional story of the war in Vietnam, The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. This critically acclaimed novel is a meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.