Friday, July 24, 2009

Book review: The Unforgiving Minute

The Unforgiving Minute is the spellbinding account of a soldier's rigorous training and grueling combat in Afghanistan. It's a dramatic coming-of-age story written by Captain Craig Mullaney, who is a unique mix of one part Army Ranger and one part Oxford Rhodes scholar. (I felt a particular kinship with him because we're the same age. He started at West Point in 1996, only one month before I started at The Master's College. We were both training for battle, though of a different kind.)

Having never served in the military myself, Mullaney's vivid prose gave me a deeper appreciation for our men and women in uniform, and a greater understanding of the Bible's frequent references to war.

Endorsed by General Petraus and Wesley-Clark, this book is an instant classic you will find very hard to put down.

Here's an excerpt, with a great illustration of endurance...

For a moment, sitting on the examining table, I considered quitting. Dozens had already quit. In Ranger parlance, they had LOM'd: dropped out for 'lack of motivation.' At West Point I had always risen to the challenges. The challenges of Ranger School, however, were on a different scale, and I wondered whether I could take two more months of punishment at this voltage. At the moment, motivation was scarce. A medical 'drop' was an honorable reason to leave Ranger School, I rationalized to myself. No one would call me a coward or a failure if I had a legitimate medical excuse. It was the easy way out. I would be on a plane home to Rhode Island in twelve hours, sitting by the pool with a margarita. Covered in mud and sweat, the prospect was especially appealing. Ranger School could wait a couple of years, I told myself. Maybe after Oxford?

Another voice, however, urged me to stay. This sort of decision had an audience of one. Forget what my father would say as he picked me up at the airport. Forget LoFaro, Ostlund, and Charlie. Would I be able to look at myself in the mirror again if I quit? So I stayed in the course, a decision I would curse during every painful march or sleepless night staring out at the dark from a cold patrol base. There were no good days in Ranger School, just variations of bad. It demanded an almost inhuman endurance.... (p. 96)

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