From time to time I like to read something that isn't about the Civil War. Partly this is to remind myself that things have happened since 1876. I also do this to recharge the batteries a bit, as much as I like the Civil War sometimes I need to leave it for awhile to appreciate it more. In that vein the other day I picked up Once a Marine. Its the story of Gunny Sergeant Nick Popaditch. You might be asking who, but if you've seen the pictures of the Marine with a Marine Corps emblem on his glass eye you know who I'm talking about. I've seen lots of advertising for this book in magazines and on Ted Savas' blog, and finally decided to give it a try.
Gunny Pop is a Silver Star winner and first came to the public eye as "The Cigar Marine" when his tanks tore down the Firdos "Saddam" square in April 2003. The following year he was back in Iraq, and was severely wounded by a RPG (rocket propelled grenade). The RPG hit him in the head, messed up his hearing, vision, and smell. The book covers his recovery but much of the book deals with leadership issues, and what it means to be a good Marine. Then Gunny Pop is forced to struggle with how he can be a good Marine when he only has one eye, and that eye is not the best either. But he struggles to do what he can, and does make a difference as best he can. Its an amazing story, it hooked me right away.
Only the last fifth of the book is a detailed shoot-em-up memoir, the first part deals with his struggle to be an one eyed Marine, fight the system to stay a Marine, then fight to get his full benefits from the VA. The last section when Gunny Pop details what he did the day he won the Silver Star (coincidentally the day before his sever wounding) is amazing. It was amazing to read how the Marines actually get stuff done on the ground. I also wish Civil War veterans had written down the stories of what they did with this much attention to detail while the war was still fresh in their minds and not wait 20 years like many did. (Of course many did write it down immediately but generally if you find a memoir, not a collection of letters, it was written many years after the fact when memories were much more hazy.)
Gunny Pop's website is www.onceamarine.com. Thanks to Ted Savas for bringing this wonderful book to print. Next time Ted recommends a book I won't wait 3-4 months to take him up on it, I'll listen right away.