Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Osama bin Laden gets his just rewards in Mark Owen's – No Easy Day

Matt Bissonnette, aka Mark Owen, one of 24 hand-picked men who carried out the raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that housed Al Qadea leader Osama bin Laden, pens his firsthand description of the event.  Known formally as Operation Neptune Spear, this account of SEAL Team Six’s assault on the compound, in coordination with the 160th SOAR (“Night Stalkers”) helicopters, gives a step-by-step iteration of the events from boarding the transport buses in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on their way to the air-strip and the waiting helos, to the missions conclusion, as the transports touched down in Virginia.
Autobiographical in nature, Bissonnette recalls what drove him to become an elite fighter, a Navy SEAL, from a young age, through his training, and deployments, culminating with selection to DEVGRU (SEAL Team Six).  He recounts several missions he performed in his years as a team member and the fast friendships he made with fellow SEALs.  A notable mission he recounts was the rescue of Richard Phillips, Captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, taken hostage by Somali pirates in April 2009.
No Easy Day provides detailed diagrams of the compound and timelines the events of the Navy SEAL raid to capture or kill bin Laden.  It goes into details of the killing of not only bin Laden, but also of his son, Kahlid, as well as the al Kuwaiti brothers during the raid.  The book shows that regardless of how well planned and rehearsed an action can be, things can and will go wrong, like the crash landing of the helicopter transporting half of the raiding party. 
Bissonnette downplays the individual contributions to the success of this raid leading one to believe that any section in the SEAL unit could have completed the raid successfully, that the SEALs that participated just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  A good read.  I recommend it to anyone interested in military history or current events.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski while attending his final semester of veterinary school at an Ivy League university learns of his parent’s death in a car crash.  He leaves vet school during final exams and while aimlessly wondering, hops a train and discovers he is on a special circus train occupied by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  Jacob parlays his veterinary expertise into a full-time position with the circus.

Jacob shares what was once a sheep pen as his sleeping quarters with a circus dwarf name Kinko (Walter) and his bob-tailed dog Queenie.  He is befriended by the circuses star performer, a beauty named Marlena, and her husband August, the shows number two man and head trainer.  Jacob falls in love with Marlena, and learns to hate and fear August for his cruelty to both humans and animals alike.

Needless to say, the story revolves around the love triangle between these three; add a toothless lion, an elephant that only understands Polish, and an orangutan, and you have a very entertaining novel.

The narrator of the story is Jacob Jankowski in later life, confined to a nursing home at age 93.  He reflects back 70-years to events in the summer of 1933. 

I lost my father last year; he was 93 and in a nursing home.  I had so much empathy for Jacob, as I imagined my father thinking, saying, and doing the things old Jacob did while denied his freedom, and in some cases his dignity in his final years.

I would recommend this book on three levles – as a historical novel, as a well told interpersonal story, and as an insight into a gentleman’s twilight years.