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Ghosts of War
Cover of Ghosts of War
Ghosts of War
The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI
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In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, follow one GI's tour of duty as Ryan Smithson brings readers inside a world that few understand. This is no ordinary teenager's story. Instead of opting for...
In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, follow one GI's tour of duty as Ryan Smithson brings readers inside a world that few understand. This is no ordinary teenager's story. Instead of opting for...
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Description-

  • In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, follow one GI's tour of duty as Ryan Smithson brings readers inside a world that few understand.

    This is no ordinary teenager's story. Instead of opting for college life, Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer.

    His story—and the stories of thousands of other soldiers—is nothing like what you see on CNN or read about in the New York Times. This unforgettable story about combat, friendship, fear, and a soldier's commitment to his country peels back the curtain on the realities of war in a story all Americans should read.

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    Stuck in the Fence

    East Greenbush, New York, is a suburb of Albany. Middle-class and about as average as it gets. The work was steady, the incomes were suitable, and the kids at Columbia High School were wannabes. They wanted to be rich. They wanted to be hot. They wanted to be tough. They wanted to be too cool for the kids who wanted to be rich, hot, and tough.

    Picture me: the average teenage boy. Blond hair and blue eyes, smaller than average build, and I'll admit, a little dorky. I sat in third-period lunch with friends wearing my brand-new Aéropostale T-shirt and backward hat, wanting to be self-confident. The smells of greasy school lunches filled the air. We were at one of the identical fold-out tables. We were talking, but my thoughts were on my girlfriend, Heather. She was a senior this year and would finally be done. I was a junior and had two more years to go. What a drag.

    I had turned sixteen less than a month ago, and so far being sixteen was boring as hell. I remembered watching shows like Saved by the Bell and Welcome Freshmen when I was a kid. How amazingly cool high school had seemed in those shows.

    I remembered coming to the high school in fifth grade for a district-wide band concert. I marveled at these independent creatures who had their own cars and girlfriends and after-school jobs and holes in their jeans. They were free in the truest sense of the word.

    And then, overnight it seemed, I was sitting in Columbia doing all the "independent" and "wild" things that teenagers did. What a joke. High school was so typical and predictable. Everyone here was so occupied with discovering the definition of cool.

    To some, cool was Abercrombie and popped collars. Some thought cool was playing sports. Some thought cool was drinking before the homecoming dance. And others swore that cool was not trying to be cool: nonconformists with black nail polish, leather boots, and oversized safety pins in their ears.

    Our free expression was in so many ways just a restriction of our identities. All of us trying to be something we weren't. Even the nonconformists were conforming.

    High school, I guessed, was just a chapter, something standing in the way of real freedom. High school didn't even seem real. It seemed so fake.

    A friend of mine came into the cafeteria and sat down next to me.

    "You hear?" he asked us.

    "What?"

    "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center."

    "That sucks," I said.

    The conversation picked back up and we talked about sex or drugs or something equally as interesting. It wasn't that we didn't care about the Trade Center. We shook it off as an accident. We assumed some drunk or stupid pilot had misjudged, clipped a wing, or something, and we shook it off. Shit happens.

    The bell rang and the hallways exploded with raucous, horny teenagers. I visited Heather in the hallway, walked her to her class, and went to fourth period, Trigonometry. My math teacher, being pretty obsessive-compulsive, said that we weren't going to watch CNN all period. We were going to learn trig. She mentioned something about the crash but quickly moved on to the isosceles triangle. None of us realized the magnitude of it all yet. Otherwise we would have watched CNN all period.

    It wasn't until fifth period, American History, that I understood what happened. During math class, the second plane had crashed, and I walked into History to see a TV showing the now infamous news footage: two enormous twin towers that smoked from their tops, one plume a bit higher than the other.

    I walked to my seat and sat down, eyes never leaving the television. I took off my hat, but I didn't open my notebook. I didn't take out my pencil or assume the slumped note-taking position. I knew we...

About the Author-

  • Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq as an engineer at the age of nineteen. Upon returning, he earned an AAS degree in criminal justice. Specialist Smithson doesn't know if he'll be deployed again. He currently works for the American Red Cross as a mobile unit assistant and lives with his wife in upstate New York.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 25, 2009
    In this raw and powerful memoir, veteran Smithson recounts his time as an army engineer in Iraq. As a student in suburban Albany, he joins the army after 9/11. While in Iraq, he's shot at and faces mortar attack, but he spends more time on responsibilities like methodical cleanups of roadside bomb craters—work that's as vital, if not as sexy, as actual combat. Smithson's interactions with Iraqi children and families, as much as with his fellow soldiers, drive the story. Military biography clichés—from the indoctrination of boot camp (“they break us down, build us up, break us down again, and then build us back up”) to resentment of officers among the enlisted—abound because they're no doubt true. But the real meat of the book is in Smithson's dealings with American noncombatants, from the little boy who sends care packages to the pilot who insists on upgrading him to first class and his wife and parents. Smithson avoids writing either prowar propaganda or an antimilitary polemic, providing instead a fascinating, often humorous—and occasionally devastating—account of the motivations and life of a contemporary soldier. Ages 14–up.

  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    He lucidly recounts the intensity of battle and the pain of losing comrades. For Smithson, the war is a source of personal enlightenment, and this memoir is a remarkable, deeply penetrating read that will compel teens to reflect on their own thoughts about duty, patriotism and sacrifice. (Memoir. YA)

  • School Library Journal (starred review)

    A tough but powerful look at one man's experience.

  • Publishers Weekly

    Smithson avoids writing either prowar propaganda or an antimilitary polemic, providing instead a fascinating, often humorous-and occasionally devastating-account of the motivations and life of a contemporary soldier.

  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    Unflinchingly honest.

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The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI
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