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Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

4.36  ·  Rating Details ·  777 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
They are the troops that nobody wants to see, carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear. Since the start of the war in Iraq, Marines like Major Steve Beck found themselves charged with a mission they never asked for and one for which there can be no training: casualty notification. In "Final Salute," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Sheeler weaves ...more
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Published May 1st 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 2008)
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May 22, 2008 Schuyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in a small town in southern New Hampshire (Merrimack) and looking back on it now, a rather politically conservative town. Most of those political ideals were held in the hearts of the adults of the community and subsequently passed down on to their children. Though my parents were (are) fairly liberal in their views, my father being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Upon graduating high school, several of my good friends decided that the military was the right decision f ...more
Oct 29, 2008 Di rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, let me start by saying that I could not read more than one chapter on the train home from work. After a few pages, the tears would start falling and I would have to put the book away.

There was one page that I reread a few times since it really made me think...

"....The unintended consequence is a further detachment of the populace not seeing their fallen service member come home, he said. I think that in many ways the people in this country are detached from the war - financially detached
Megan Tyson
Aug 07, 2008 Megan Tyson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are no words to describe how I felt reading this book. I read it over two days traveling home to RI for a visit...I was crying at home, in the airport and on the plane. I had read Jim Sheeler's article and seen the pictures that accompanied it and I knew I had to read this book. Not just about Marines who had given their lives, but service members from other branches as well. We see everything from the knock on the door of a young pregnant wife, to how the casualty assistance officer feels ...more
This book pretty much broke my heart.

Sheeler spent a lot of time with a Marine Corps casualty assistance officer, whose job it was to notify the families of soldiers who died in combat, and then followed up with those families (just as the CAO did) in the months ahead as the bodies came home for burial, and parents, spouses, and children tried to carry on with their lives. The book does not play politics where the war in Iraq is concerned, but it is a powerful reminder for every American of the
Jun 29, 2009 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books that makes me think that we don't just choose books, but they choose us. I read the cover at the BX, and almost got all choked up right in the aisle. This book is about the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and the echoes of that pain through the lives of their families. I believe death is the mirror that shows us who we are most faithfully, and this book reaffirmed that. I don't think I have ever read a book that made me cry this much. The writing was absolu ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Lennie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Final Salute, the author writes about a topic so sensitive and emotionally upsetting that you'll need a box of tissue to read this book. The topic is casualty notification in which a military officer has to knock on the door of a family whose loved one has died in the war. The author has interviewed both Major Beck (whose job is casualty notification) and the families who had to answer his knock on the door. They talk about how their lives have become affected by the news they received and I' ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Vicky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Heartbreaking and powerful and definitely worth the read. The book captures the devastating cost of going to war. It removes the politics of war and exposes the raw emotions experienced by the military families of fallen soldiers. It's a shame how little the American public recognizes the sacrifices our soldiers and their families make. After reading this book, I am now more consciously aware of the sacrifices and have a deeper appreciation for what the servicemen/women do.
Brenda Clough
Oct 12, 2011 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review originally appeared in the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Magazine.

Interviewed on a TV talk show last year, First Lady Laura Bush said that “no one suffers more” over Iraq that she and her husband do. Someone should send her FINAL SALUTE: A Story of Unfinished Lives by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jim Sheeler. The stupendous suffering of those who have lost loved ones in Iraq is overwhelming, to the point where this is a hard book to read. No matter what your politi
Lauren Monsey Nagel
Aug 04, 2010 Lauren Monsey Nagel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If you have not heard of the book, you might recall hearing about the author. His name is Jim Sheeler, the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. When I picked up this book I immediately recognized it was the same Major Steve Beck that I had read about a few years ago, in my Sunday paper. Major Beck, a causality assistance calls officer in the US Marine Corp, had organized “Remembering The Brave” ceremony for the families in honor of their fallen loved one.
When you first pick thi
Dec 22, 2008 Tasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking book about the reality of our troops not coming home, Casualty Notification and the aftermath for the soldiers families and friends. Marine Staff Sergeant Kevin Thomas was quoted in the book to say "You always here all these statements like "Freedom isn't free." You hear the President talking about all these people making sacrifices. But you never really know until you carry one of them in the casket. When you feel their body weight. When you feel them, That's when you know. That's ...more
Ramsey Hootman
Jun 14, 2014 Ramsey Hootman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not even sure how to review this book. It was hard to read. Really hard. I could only go a few pages at a time before I had to put it down so I could keep myself from crying. I probably could have stomached it before I had children, but as a mother I cannot read about soldiers dying without imagining my own boys coming home in boxes.

Worthwhile? God, yes. In fact I think anyone considering serving should have to read this before signing up. I think anyone who votes should probably read this b
Bethann Guevara
Jul 30, 2009 Bethann Guevara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My youngest brother is a US Marine, and I read this book earlier this year, just before I learned he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan. The author follows a Marine officer whose job it is to make that horrible, dreaded knock on the door to notify a family of their Marine's death; he chronicles the officer's involvement in that family's life, as well as paying tribute to their fallen Marine. It's very well done; touching without sounding hollow in the least. I read it with tears running dow ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At times this book can leave you heartbroken and a bit emotionally drained, but it is definitely worth the read. Throughout the war, I never even imagined the soldiers who have to notify families of their loved ones death. This book follows an upstanding marine on notification duty and at least four families of fallen soldiers. I appreciated reading about the respect given to fallen soldiers as they are escorted home to their final resting place. This book allowed me to see a different side to t ...more
Garry Wilmore
Jul 12, 2009 Garry Wilmore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Regardless of how one feels about the war in Iraq, this book makes compelling reading and prompts reflection on the human cost of the conflict, at least from the American perspective. Simply yet movingly written, this is a collection of stories about the military officers charged with the unenviable task of notifying the next-of-kin when a service member is killed. I bought it in the hardbound edition, could hardly put it down, will probably reread it at some point, and have recommended it to my ...more
Sep 18, 2014 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not read this book until my son came home from his second tour in Afghanistan. Anyone who does not appreciate the sacrifices of our military and their families should read this book, then maybe they would not go around protesting military funerals.
Carol Schultz
May 29, 2008 Carol Schultz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read by anyone who wants to get a close look at the tragedy within the families, friends, and soldiers of our fallen soldiers in this wasteful war this country is in.
Nov 16, 2009 Dallas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you don’t feel honor and respect for in living in the U.S.A. after this book, you should probably move. Stopped reading many times to fight back the tears.
Diana Petty-stone
Honoring and burying our brave men and women who fight for freedom. Not sad but very very moving and very well done.
Mar 01, 2013 Anjana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You never know what someone is going through until you walk a mile in their moccasins. In Final Salute, Jim Sheeler provides the moccasins for us- moccasins of families that have lost loved ones. At first, the book was very moving. Sheeler’s eye for detail is impeccable, his intuition for effective dialogue faultless, and his ability to keep his opinions to himself acclaimed. If he had kept butting in throughout the story, pointing out how he thought that what the family was going through was ho ...more
Jan 18, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Final Salute was a very emotional read of soldiers from Colorado who had died in action in Iraq whose remains were brought home with military escorts to be buried and remembered. The author, Jim Sheeler, a reporter with Denver's Rocky Mountain News, won a Pulitzer prize in Feature Writing for this book, and his sincerity and focus in following officers assigned to tell the news to families, escort the body through transit, funeral, and burial was telling. He then followed certain families up to ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-09
A majority Final Salute follows Marine Corps Major Steve Beck as he knocks on doors to notify families that their sons/daughters/husbands/wives have died in Iraq. His job is technically called "casualty notification", but Major Beck is an incredibly selfless and inspirational figure who stays in contact with the families for years and assures their Marines are treated with respect and honor at all times. The book really is a story of unfinished lives, as the subtitle suggests. We get to know, q ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, war
There is always a heavy price some have to pay when any forces are sent in harm's way. Of course, we feel the pain of our losses most closely. And as I approach that age where my sons (as well as more distant relatives) face the reality of joining the military, this book serves to reveal some of the anguish (as well as compassion and dedication) of the families and service representatives that work to dignify the passing of a loved one who served. Essentially these are vignettes covering differe ...more
Jun 25, 2014 Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book. I don't think any book I have ever read in all of my 17 years of life has ever touched my heart quite like this one.

I first started reading this book in my photography class; our teacher read us parts of it and showed us some of the pictures that went along with the story. he didn't read us the whole thing, but I remember sitting in his classroom crying along with some other girls that sat next to me. Thursday night, as I was packing for a trip to Kansas, I decided to take this book
Jaime Wolfley
Sep 02, 2008 Jaime Wolfley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing! As one reviewer wrote: "This is quite possibly the most poignant book I've read." You will need a box of tissue with you but it is very much worth the tears that you will shed. It mostly follows a Marine Corps Major as he informs the loved ones of a fallen Marine. It is such a moving book. To our knowledge there has never been another book written that shows what happens beyond the initial knock on the door. Both Greg & I read it and weve extremely moved by it. As for t ...more
Jul 08, 2009 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting and touching book about a few of the families affected by the conflict in Iraq, specifically the deaths of loved ones serving in the military. Full disclosure: I got pretty misty-eyed quite a few times while reading this.

Jim Sheeler, the author, writes for the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado and spent several years following a few families after they received word that their son/husband/brother died in Iraq. Sheeler also profiles a specific "casualty notification officer," t
Oct 27, 2016 Glenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As you might suspect from the title, this is not a happy book. But it falls very much into the category of almost necessary to read books because it deals with the very human, very painful consequences of war and military action - that most of us are removed from.

The book is essentially a collection of stories told from the perspective of those who have to inform families and loved ones of the tragic news.

It's not about whether or not we should, so regardless of your stance on those unfortunat
Mar 01, 2009 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Listening to it as an audio book. Have to pack tissues in the car. Very moving.

Extremely moving. And a respectful tribute to the marines/soldiers who have fallen in Iraq & Afghanistan, and the families they leave behind (as represented by several families profiled in the book).

The booktells the story of how military families are informed of their loved ones death by the armed services. It mainly follows Major Beck, a Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Officer, who truly respects and cares for
Jun 15, 2011 Carole rated it really liked it
This is a book that will make you cry. My husband started to read it and had to stop. I figured it was the least I could do to finish it, considering what the families are going through, but never really considered not finishing it, though it took me longer than usual since I had to stop often.

It is an inspiring book also. You learn how they deal with the tragedy of losing a loved one. Most of all you learn how the government is woefully lacking in training the notifiers, and in helping the fam
Aug 20, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Picked up this audio @ the library since I was awaiting my next "hold" to come in...and I lucked out! It was very good!
True stories told fr. a Marine who has the job "casualty assistance officer", notifying the families of fallen service men/women, and being their contact and assisting them in any way possible as long as they wish/need. The stories of 4-5 service men are followed, from notifying their families, to their funerals and/or prep thereof, to their families' voices on who their family
Sep 03, 2016 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book primarily for research purposes, so let me just say that I didn't read all of it. But from what I did read, this book had me in tears!

I think the most heartbreaking story was the pregnant widow who wanted to sleep in the same room with her husband one more time, so she slept next to his casket on a mattress on the floor while some marines stood guard. And she played some of their favorite songs on her laptop. Oh my god, I just lost it right there. That's the kind of heartb
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Emporia Public Li...: Final Salute - Reviewed by Lynn Bonney 1 3 Jun 06, 2016 11:49AM  
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“You always hear all these statements like "Freedom isn't free." You hear the President talking about all these people making sacrifices. But you never really know until you carry one of them in a casket. When you feel their bodyweight. When you feel them. That's when you know. That's when you understand.” 0 likes
“I've had people tell me to get over it. I politely tell them, 'How about if I chop off your finger and see if it grows back?” 0 likes
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