One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

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Nathaniel Fick decided while he was in college that he was going to join the Marines. He served as an Infantry Officer and later as a Recon Marine. During that time, he saw a good chunk of what the world had to offer, both good and bad. One Bullet Away is Fick’s account of the things he faced during those years.

I first became aware of Nathaniel Fick’s story when I read Generation Kill by Evan Wright a few years back. While I enjoyed Wright’s book, I have a different appreciation for One Bullet Away because of the different perspective. To read the account of someone who actually trained and served and couldn’t just go home after spending a while in a war zone is rather humbling.

One of the major pluses for One Bullet Away is the amount of ground that Fick covers. By that I mean that it’s not just a story about the gruesome aspects of war. Fick talks a lot about how he made the decision to join the Marines, what he went through in order to join, and the training he had to go through once he did get in and how that helped him to become the person he is. In addition, he mentions coming home from war and what it’s like adapting to civilian life again. He also discusses his decision to leave the Corps – how he went from believing the Corps would be his career to realizing that he needed to get out. He talks about all of this, and war, in such an honest and personal manner that it’s hard not to be captivated by his story.

In One Bullet Away Fick isn’t afraid to be candid about all things. He talks about himself, his feelings, his feelings about others and how things were done in a very straightforward manner. One Bullet Away is well written and easy to read. I didn’t want to put it down when I read it because I was so hooked by his story.

Bottom line, I honestly don’t have a bad thing to say about this book. People who serve in the armed forces endure a lot of things and that holds true for Nathaniel Fick and the men and women he served with. Definitely a great read.

Lost in Shangri-La

On the afternoon of May 13, 1945 a group of 24 officers and enlisted military personnel hopped on a military plane to see the popular Shangri-La, a picturesque valley hidden away in the mountains of New Guinea. The only way to see Shangri-La was by air, flying through a particularly tumultuous mountain pass. On this day, one man’s questionable decision, one co-pilots inexperience, and possible mechanical problems paired with the unpredictable mountain weather all lead to a tragic fate for the men and women aboard the plane dubbed the ‘Gremlin Special.’

After the crash, only three of the 24 passengers survived – one woman and two men. Armed with few supplies and an array of injuries – broken bones, burns, cuts, bruises, and gangrene, not to mention the grief of losing friends and acquaintances and in one survivors case a twin brother, the three started their hike down the valley into an open area they were able to spot. Living off of small tins of water and hard candy, they never gave up. Eventually they made it to the field where they were spotted by American pilots and the native peoples.

Soon after the survivors are spotted, supplies start coming in raising morale and a group of Filipino-American paratroopers volunteer to make a daring jump into the valley. Finally, with the attention of medics, things start to look up, but they still have a long way go to heal, hike back to the main base set up by the paratroopers, and get out of the valley – safely. Almost seven weeks after the crash, a daring attempt was made, and in a matter of days, the survivors, the volunteer paratroopers, and one man from Hollywood all made it out of Shangri-La.

If I was limited to one word to describe this book, it would be: phenomenal. It’s hard to believe that Lost in Shangri-La is a non-fiction book because the story is so amazing. However, this is a true story, and it is pretty epic. Lost in Shangri-La isn’t just about a plane crashing and what happened afterwards. It’s an extremely comprehensive telling of the history of New Guinea, what life was like for the native peoples and soldiers stationed there, the men and women who went down in the plane as well as the men and women who were willing to risk their lives to help the survivors, what was happening during WWII at the time, and the rescue that one has to be crazy to attempt.

The three survivors of the Gremlin Special are the ultimate heroes. They found within themselves the motivation they needed to go on, even when they were in so much pain they could hardly stand and at times they were actually crawling through the jungle. They were confronted by a native people with whom they couldn’t communicate very well and whom they were lead to believe were a cannibalistic and cruel group of prehistoric warriors. In fact, these people ended up friends. On and on these three fought, never giving up no matter what was thrown their way.

A story put together from interviews, journals written by those involved in the crash and rescue, old news articles, along with pictures from the time spent waiting to be rescued and the rescue itself, Lost in Shangri-La is a book you have to read, to experience for yourself. It’s the type of book that you don’t want to put down because you want to know how these individuals fared.

Bottom line, Lost in Shangri-La is beautifully written, the chapters move very quickly, and the story is absolutely captivating. I highly recommend this book, not only for lovers of history, but for anyone who is looking for inspiration, for a story of struggle and triumph.

**I received a copy of this book as a part of TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own and have not been influenced in anyway.

Generation Kill

Evan Wright, a journalist spent two months embedded with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Marines during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Originally, his account was a three part series in Rolling Stone magazine. In 2004, he published Generation Kill, a full length novel.

Generation Kill gives a view of the war from the perspectives of those fighting it. It isn’t bogged down by a bunch of Capitol Hill excuses and it certainly isn’t sugar-coated. Wright himself gets to experience a whole lot during his time with the marines, from supply shortages and how they affect the men to getting shot at when sitting in the back seat of a humvee in a combat zone.

What I liked most about reading this is seeing how all of these men, with such different backgrounds and personalities come together and fight. I liked the honesty that is shown. There are incompetent and crazy officers, a translator who no one can be quite sure about, and the many different people that stand up to do the jobs that other people couldn’t believe. I was also able to form a whole new view of everything that is happening in Iraq during the war based on the views of those on the frontline.

I absolutely loved this book. There were times that I stared at the pages in disbelief, especially at the lack of proficiency expressed by some of the officers as well as the reserve units that met up with them. The rest of the time I was usually laughing. Though some of the humor was incredibly raunchy, I couldn’t help but laugh. Some of the views expressed and the different ways everyone acts were too much.

By far one of my favorite reads!