When Joe Klein begins to tell the story, he explains how the devastating earthquake in Haiti inspired Eric Greitens and Jake Wood, two Iraq war veterans, to offer their help. Who better then former soldiers trained to work under the most stressful conditions could there be, they thought, but they encountered bureaucratic nonsense when they tried to go through proper channels. Instead, they organized a group of former “brothers in combat” with whom they had deployed to Iraq, and formed Team Rubicon. This team, that was hurriedly assembled, worked so well together and accomplished so much good in a very short time, working with the Jesuits, that they decided to continue their mission by finding new ways to offer their help when disasters occurred around the world. They knew how to deploy quickly and accomplish their goals efficiently without the governmental red tape that normally held things up and prevented missions from getting done in a timely fashion. They wanted the returning servicemen who often had trouble adjusting to life back home again, to volunteer in this effort. They could jump through hoops and over hurdles to accomplish good things for society; that was the ambition that drove them to offer their service to the country to begin with, and in that way they could also readjust to life back home. Team Rubicon grew and went wherever there was a need. They were involved with the clean up in Sandy Hook, N.J., which suffered massive flooding after a storm, offered their help in the places devastated by Hurricane Katrina, traveled to Chile to help after a terrible earthquake, and to Pakistan to help in a Cholera epidemic. If the need for help arose, they tried to answer the call. They created ancillary businesses to give jobs to returning veterans, provided counseling, and offered scholarships for education. Families of returning soldiers and the fallen became involved as well.
The most important message to come out of the book was that these loyal, returning veterans would never stop trying to help others, and they would never give up on their mission. Sadly, although the men and women had noble intentions and were well-meaning and brave, some were damaged before they went to war, and so they were more so after they came home. Helping these returnees to acclimate and assimilate into the peaceful world was often a losing battle. These brave men and women tried hard to save each other but some were lost to suicide while they waited to be approved for help by the Veteran’s Administration, which was, and still is, underfunded and in disarray in many places.
Charlie Mike means “continue the mission” in military speak, and these men and women were obsessed with doing just that. All Americans should be grateful for their effort. However, Klein’s sometimes subtle, but obvious, left-wing interjections often interfered with the thread connecting the stories about these war heroes, and they even sometimes dominated the narrative and obscured the emphasis on their courage and their suffering. The book, unfortunately, was disorganized; it skipped around from place to place in each chapter without what seemed to be a rational outline. The chapters seemed disconnected from each other. Although the book is described as being one that is about the two men mentioned above, it mentioned so many other men and women that it was hard to even remember which person was being discussed from chapter to chapter or which place each new disaster occurred. Because the story about these courageous men and women was important to me, I soldiered on and read it until the end, but I think the book should have been organized differently, with each chapter fully “vetting” a single featured character and his background. Then in the final chapters, the way they came together to work and help in disaster areas would have been more structured enabling the dots to be connected. It was simply too scattered, too repetitive, too detailed and too politically motivated.
The author wanted to expose the difficulties the soldiers faced when returning to civilian life after being in the theater of war. They suffered from physical, mental and emotional stress, often succumbing to PTSD. Klein delved deeply into the background of many of the soldiers he discussed, often including a bit too much detail, and sometimes the narrator, Graham, became too much a part of the book, over-emoting as if it was a stage production. When Klein attempted to wax poetic and get lyrical, the book also faltered. It needed a more sober approach to pay homage to those who served, those who wanted to “continue their mission” long after they had to do so.
Both Greitens and Wood were part of the cadre of returning veterans from the Iraq war. These men and women should have been welcomed home as heroes by all of us because they are the ones that stand between danger and our safety, but they were often forgotten in the shuffle, in the political brouhaha framed by the liberal left and their hypocritical cohorts like “Code Pink”. They promptly forgot their vociferous and boisterous objections to war once the Democrats assumed power and the Republicans exited, which they readily admit. They can no longer get the following they had during the Bush administration when they protest now, during Obama’s reign. “Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women’s anti-war group Code Pink, blames the Democrats”, according to the Washington Times of 9/4/13.
Instead of honoring our returning soldiers, anti-war sentiment portrayed them as collaborators. They were not welcomed home like the brave men and women they were, but instead they were ostracized. The damage done by these hypocritical do-gooders is as damaging as what was done to the Viet Nam war veterans at a different time in history. Perhaps if the soldiers had been welcomed more kindly and debriefed more effectively on their return they would not have been so lost and ill at ease when they returned home after leaving the war zone. These men witnessed death and destruction and terrible acts of atrocity, some by those they knew, some who simply lost it in the heat of battle and death all around them, some simply as a direct result of what happens in a war. They needed and still need respect and care when they return, not demonstrations shaming them. Even though the book is not written that well, it deserves to be read because of the message which honors our men and women in uniform.