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Posted on Aug 13, 2005 in Front Page Features

Book Review: Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq

Jim H. Moreno

Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq
Karl Zinsmeister
St. Martin’s Press, 2003

I have often heard that a man’s greatest accomplishments in his life come after his 50th birthday. I have always felt destined for some form of greatness, especially since I experienced what I feel is my greatest accomplishment to date at a very early age: I turned twenty-one serving with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Gulf War. As my military tour has now been a few years over with, I see that was maybe a selfish feeling. Why? Because I’m sure I was not the only kid to become a man during that war, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only soldier to return home feeling damn proud of what I had helped Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and my beloved 82nd Airborne with.

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Those are feelings that I have since found only fleetingly in the civilian world. Try as I might, explaining a soldier’s life to those who are not soldiers is a lesson. Especially since there are soldiers, and then there is the 82nd Airborne, the most elite and highly-trained regular army force in the world. Thanks to the time and effort of The American Enterprise editor-in-chief Karl Zinsmeister and this book, I now have another weapon in my arsenal to help me help others better understand a soldier’s purpose and duty.

Boots on the Ground is a short read (213 pages), but it’s intense and superbly honest look at the 82nd’s experience during the early stages of the Iraq War brought back so many memories for me. With each page, the desire to be there with my fellow soldiers burned hotter. Zinsmeister does an excellent job writing the facts about the war, as he saw the 82nd experience it, and as he saw it with his own eyes.

Zinsmeister begins his report four days before he is to embed with the 82nd. In the first chapter titled "Is Anything Worth War?", he lays the answer out before the reader through his own daily life, with such a strength that should cause pause and reflection, especially once the reader gets deeper into the story.

The next and following chapters are devoted to explaining the routine missions and everyday heroism executed by the 82nd’s warriors. More importantly, Zinsmeister gets personal and private with many of the soldiers around him, and explains the why. For a civilian journalist covering a military action, Zinsmeister never forgets that he is an American reporting about Americans, despite the difference in dress.

The final eigth and ninth chapters bring the book and the author’s tale to an appropriate and proper close, although it was just a tad bit too politically heavy for my taste. Zinsmeister, however, wrote what he saw, felt, and thought, and all based on what the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division saw, felt, thought, and taught him during his month with them. I just wish it had been me there.

Get this book. Read it to understand better. Then hand it to someone you know in need of understanding. Airborne!

The American Enterprise 82nd Airborne Division>

Stay Alert, Stay Alive!

Jim H. Moreno

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