A Marine’s Father’s Account of the Iraq War. Author Andrew Lubin whose son was a Marine, writes a heartfelt view on war, patriotism, history, and most importantly, father-son relationships in his book Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq. The title of the book does not give you the fullness of the story that lies within those pages. This book walks you through what it is like being the parent of a Marine in combat whose life is in great danger. The author does it without “going emotional” on you and yet you know that it has taken its toll on him. It is an understated style that feels very much like a Marine family way to handle things.
My own son was in the Army in first Gulf War with Iraq. I was glued to the TV news 24/7 for several days. I did not get any mail from my son for weeks but I had gotten a phone call from him just a couple of hours before all hell broke loose and the air campaign began. So my wife and I have walked down that same road that Lubin has traveled. I have been angry at protesters on TV while my son was in combat. I was angry at our government for the war and for endangering my son. I worried about his health and safety. I was also worried if he would mentally and emotionally come back as he was.
Lubin’s story of his son Phil and his son’s unit “Charlie Battery” is not just about them but has more universal appeal to all military families and most especially Marine ones. Anyone who has ever sent a son or daughter off to a war will be able to identify with this book. There are parts of this book that were gut wrenching from a parent’s point of memory. It is so surreal watching the war on TV knowing that your own son is over there someplace. In Lubin’s situation, he actually is able to see a news report on Charlie Company in the battle for An-Nasiriyah in the middle of the night. For any parent that would make sleeping that much harder to do after that. It is that 'not knowing' element that makes being a parent so difficult. Is your son safe? Is he hurt? God forbid, but could he get killed.
This book takes the reader though the whole build up and the shipping out process. We are able to be there with the father and son as they spend the past few hours together before he ships out to Iraq. We follow along with the few emails and phone calls but mostly very late and old news via letters. The author weaves into his personal story lots of USMC history and tradition. He also wrote about all the men of the unit and does not just focus on his son. He even adds some great quotes at the beginning of each chapter. The personal black and white photos tell another story that only photos can do.
I think there are several key emotional parts to this book that hit me. One of them was the playing of Amazing Grace on bagpipes by one of the Marines in their base camp before the invasion. There is mention that the guy played for almost 20 minutes and that it moved the troops. I bet it did. That song is powerful and I could visualize the men listening and thinking about God, their families, and the up coming battles. Another emotionally strong part of the book is the actual battle of An-Nasiriyah and all that the unit goes through. The background details about that prolonged engagement has some real teeth. I admit that I gained a newer perceptive on that battle even though I have read dozens of accounts of that same battle.
It is great writing in all aspects of good story telling. It is both informative and entertaining as well. The coming home and even his carefully managed remarks at the end of the book about the politics of this continuing war all contribute to give this book much more depth and feeling then any history book on this war. He makes it very personal at times; and yet the book is expansive and inclusive for all military families. It is a book that you should read even if you think you understand and know all you want to know about this current war over there. It will give you a better understanding of the human element and what makes Marines special.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2007)
"Charlie Battery" is the harrowing and personal account of a Marine Corps artillery battery fighting for survival in the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom as they fight in the vicious battle at An-Nasiriyah. Written by the father of one of Charlie Battery's Marines, the story follows their sudden call to war, their deployment in the largest convoy since WW2, and their baptism-by-fire at An-Nas. Through extraordinary interviews with the Marines, their families, and their superior officers, we are given a rare glimpse of what they early days of the war in Iraq were like for the Marines and their families - not only for the Marines who foughyt, but for all those who watched it unfold live at 0330 one morning on MSNBC