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Book Reviews courtesy of our guest blogger Sarah Peachey

Have you been perusing your bookshelf lately looking for something good to read? If you’re craving something military-themed, here are a few books I’ve read that just might be what you’re looking for.

Peachey Monday Military Themed Book ReviewsOutlaw Platoon — By Sean Parnell

It’s difficult for those who haven’t served in the military to understand what service members experience while deployed. From the friendships and brotherhood that is formed, to the harsh realities of war, most civilians will never truly know what war is like.

In “Outlaw Platoon,” author Sean Parnell takes the reader on a journey of pre-deployment through post-deployment and all the experiences in between. Parnell served with the 10th Mountain Division as a platoon leader along the eastern border of Afghanistan in 2006. For 16 months, Parnell and his platoon, known as the Outlaws, fought against Taliban fighters in the mountains of the Hindu Kush. In one battle, more than 80 percent of soldiers were wounded in action, one of the highest casualty rates since Gettysburg.

While the book is non-fiction, it reads like a novel, with plenty of detail and feeling wrapped into each sentence. It’s as if the reader is embedded with the unit, experiencing everything firsthand. The story focuses on friendship in battle, as well as the experiences of our soldiers still serving in these areas. By the end of the book, you see the characters as your own friends and even feel the fears and worries of the soldiers.

If you enjoyed the film “Restrepo,” then I highly recommend reading this book.

(Note: There are some graphic descriptions of war and injuries as well as some profanity.)

Peachey Monday Military Themed Book ReviewsViper Pilot — Dan Hampton

Some people have heard of the competitive Air Force program that is the fighter pilot. “Viper Pilot” takes the reader through the closed world of fighter pilots and air combat to tell the story of Lt. Col. Dan Hampton, who served with the Air Force from 1986 to 2006.

Hampton was a member of the “Wild Weasels,” an elite air combat force recognized as one of the most dangerous jobs in the Air Force. The Weasels fly into war zones, drawing fire from surface-to-air missiles and artillery. For the safety of others in the air and those who will eventually be on the ground, the Weasels must evade the dangers and destroy them. These missions are considered more hazardous than direct air-to-air combat.

The memoir takes the reader through the beginning of Hampton’s career, all the way until his retirement. Deployments, duty stations and plenty of schools are identified and described, opening the entire realm of the fighter pilot (coupled with some hilarious stories).

Hampton served in the first Gulf War, the Air Combat Command staff during the Kosovo war, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and he earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses in Afghanistan.

Soldier Dogs — Maria Goodavage

Peachey Monday Military Themed Book ReviewsDogs serve in almost every branch of the United States Military, both at home and abroad, but how much do you know about their jobs and duties? They aren’t considered “soldiers” (they’re issued as equipment) and serve without rank. At one time, they were even forgotten when wars ended, never again reaching American soil.

Author Maria Goodavage takes the reader from the beginning to the end of a soldier dogs career, describing not only the jobs these animals do, but they’re training, missions and life after retirement. Your average dog need not apply.

While the dogs have their own set of duties, the most remarkable part of the story is the bonds with their handlers. Stories of handlers pulling their dogs in their sleeping bags, digging an extra foxhole for the dog to sleep in and even dogs who would guard their handlers overnight.

While I hoped the book would tell in depth stories of the handlers and their dogs, most of the stories are relatively short and intermingled with details of training. However, some of those short stories brought tears to my eyes. They may be short, but they’re packed with emotion.

The book can be graphic, describing the sad fates of the animals and their handlers while serving in war zones. If anything, these descriptions bring to light that the dogs enter these areas without fear, trusting in their handlers and working together. These dogs don’t only act as soldiers, but also comfort to other service members within the units.

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