Entirely self-serving post. Here is what I have been up to:
Dancing with the stars. My dad took great pleasure in noting that my name is between Rich Brookhiser and William F. Buckley on the Claremont list of authors, but that is an alphabetic coincidence and no more. Likewise, while I am glad that I'm nestled in the covers of the Winter issue with the likes of Michael Barone and Christopher Hitchens, rest assured that your humble diarist could only dream of producing a line such as the one concluding Hitchens' review: "The remainder can stand as an instance of the weed-like spread of second-order media phenomena such as "truthiness," and as a warning to those who suppose that the profound can be deduced from an intense but myopic scrutiny of the superficial."
In any case, you can now read "No Soldier Left Behind," my review of Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens. As an added bonus, Professor Mettler and I have a congenial exchange about the review in the editorial correspondence of the Spring issue, which you can read here.
Talking with heroes I have mentioned this publication somewhere on the web, but never talked about it in any detail. Just before the Chistmas holidays, the Combat Studies Institute press published In Contact! Case Studies from the Long War, an anthology of articles on battles and actions from Iraq and Afghanistan. I contributed to the publication with an article called the "Palm Sunday Ambush," about a short battle southeast of Baghdad in the spring of 2005.
That particular fight received a great deal of attention because of the actions of Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, who fought very well and earned the first Silver Star for a woman in a combat situation since World War II. She and the members of her squad were from the Kentucky National Guard, and I had the good fortune to interview several of them in the course of my research. Not Hester, mind you--from what I understand she gets hundreds of requests a day for interviews, and my queries probably never made it through the noise. But I did talk to another woman who was in the battle, Specialist Ashley Pullen, and Hester's squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein. Follow the link above to read all the interviews (they are the four at the bottom of the page).
Please do not get the wrong idea: although the battle became notable for the actions of Hester, she would be the first to tell you that this was not her battle. She was part of a larger team, a team that was led by Nein. And they were far from the only American participants in the fight. At least three other units with two truck convoys hit the spot of the ambush at the same time.
My article is far from perfect, but I did manage to talk, albeit briefly, about all the folks who played a role in the fight. And of all of the things I've written and published, this is the one about which I am the most proud, because it gives an honest hearing to American troops fighting our war for us. Please read it and the other articles in the anthology.
One confession, though: there is an error in the article. I wrote that Nein received the Silver Star for his actions that day. Recent events have made that incorrect. A few weeks ago, Nein got the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military decoration behind the Medal of Honor, and only the fifth awarded since Vietnam. I've never been happier to be made wrong.
Have a nice week.