Last fall, I had the unexpected pleasure of receiving a hardback copy of Into the Fire, by Dakota Meyer and Bing West.
It has taken me no few months to...moreLast fall, I had the unexpected pleasure of receiving a hardback copy of Into the Fire, by Dakota Meyer and Bing West.
It has taken me no few months to read it. The time it took was partially due to scheduling conflicts, but mostly due to the intensity of the subject matter and the raw, visceral nature with which it is conveyed.
From a technical perspective, the greater portion of this is Meyer’s firsthand account of the battle of Ganjigal and the events that followed. West’s influence is most palpable through these action sequences, and the flashes of insight taking place beyond Meyer’s awareness during the events. The battle sequences are presented in simplified language that a civilian unfamiliar with military terminology is likely to understand and follow with only marginal difficulty. Much like Meyer, they are clean, simple, and straightforward—as much as the accounting of battle and warfare can be described as such.
Though it’s largely intended to be a story of how he received the Medal of Honor, I found it to be more a story of why. This is more than just a detailed reiteration of the citation that accompanied his medal. His voice and words created for me a vivid imagery of the man within the uniform, of the ethics and solid character that led him to the choices he made.
Bing West actually does an exemplary job of summing up Meyer’s book in a single word.
From this reader’s perspective, the most crucial thread in Meyer’s story is the account of a combat veteran having returned home. After giving this detailed portrayal of firefights and recovering the members of his team, he comes home and sits through cognitive therapy and explains how the self medication with alcohol that began immediately following Gangijal returns to prominence.
There are pieces here, precious shards that flash glimpses from the inside of this man’s mind. An attentive reader will be able to freeze each moment and study them, carefully, both individually and as pieces of a very important whole. That whole being the mind of a combat veteran, of a person who has seen and done things to which so very few of us can relate. Some of us might claim to “get it,” but our comprehension is shallow and hollow and transparent. Meyer offers himself as though in sacrifice or penance, opening himself to the reader so that we might step a little closer to understanding. So that we can share his burden, because he shouldn’t bear it alone. The responsibility belongs to each of us, as human beings, as members of the free world, as citizens of this nation in whose defense Meyer voluntarily took up arms.
I have on many occasions mentioned that the one thing that can help cure this disconnect between military and civilian populations is “soldier stories” — veterans of any and every stripe reaching out to share their thoughts, their experiences, down to the very raw depths; sharing the burden of what has happened, sharing the moral and ethical impact of war so that they no longer feel encumbered with the implications alone.
Dakota Meyer does this with Into the Fire. His words resonate, from beginning to end. This is one story that everyone should read, absorbing every word and every image painted with them—from the green rolling hills of Kentucky to the bloodied puddles of mud just feet from the door of an MRAP and the salvation of a combat medic inside, to the click of the Glock’s hammer resounding through an empty chamber.
This is not so much the story of a reluctant hero as it is the story of a man who feels rewarded for failure. And that facet of Meyer’s book makes it take on a depth all its own.(less)
Been many years since I last read this one, but I recall it being a very graphic and insightful firsthand accounting of a wet-behind-the-ears Lieutena...moreBeen many years since I last read this one, but I recall it being a very graphic and insightful firsthand accounting of a wet-behind-the-ears Lieutenant hitting the ground in a very hot combat zone. Very much a soldier's tale told in a soldier's language.
And I'll revisit this one for a reread in the near future, I expect.(less)