Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front (Rowman & Littlefield) tells true stories of extraordinary heroism by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a Navy rescue swimmer in the Atlantic. The book is modeled after John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, with nine chapters describing incidents in which these Americans placed themselves in extreme danger to save lives or accomplish a mission. These stories place the reader in the minds of the individual soldiers, sailors, and Marines as they face – and overcome – enormous odds. For instance, the book highlights:
- a Navy SEAL who singlehandedly liberated a group of Marines trapped in a house in Fallujah and dragged one injured Marine 50 yards to safety as insurgents chased them down a dusty alley;
- a Marine private who saved a gravely injured comrade by carrying him nearly 100 yards through close-range enemy fire to an awaiting medevac helicopter;
- a Navy rescue swimmer who jumped into incredibly turbulent Atlantic waters during a horrific midnight storm to save a shipwrecked civilian; and
- an Army pilot who landed his helicopter in hostile territory to rescue two downed pilots, lugged them 100 yards across an insurgent-held field, and, due to a lack of space in the aircraft, strapped himself to the outside of the helicopter for the flight to the hospital.
Each of the protagonists received high medals and commendations for their actions, including one Distinguished Service Cross, one Distinguished Flying Cross, and several Silver Stars and Bronze Star Medals with Valor Device. Despite their lofty honors, these men received little attention and are essentially unknown.
These stories, however, are much more than thrilling linear narratives. Readers will develop profound feelings for the protagonists of these stories, as they peer into their minds and learn about their fears and dreams during moments of extreme danger. For example, these stories reflect on:
- a Ranger’s love for his son, whom he calls “my little hero,” and how he thought he would never see him again during a nasty firefight;
- a Marine private who promised his mother that he would return from Iraq in one piece and, as he was trying to save a comrade’s life and bullets pinged around them, he thought that he was going to break his promise to his mother;
- a Navy SEAL who put himself in grave danger to save several trapped Marines because he thought back to a Marine that had died in his arms a couple of days earlier and swore it would never happen again; and
- an Army Special Forces commander who admired an Afghan Sergeant-Major and, after the man died in his arms during an insurgent ambush, began providing financial support for the Afghan’s family so that the man’s sons would not be forced to attend fundamentalist madrassas.