Beyond Duty: Life on the Frontline in Iraq
September 2009, Polity
For most of his deployment in Iraq, Lt. Meehan felt that he had been made for a life in the military. A tank commander, he worked in the violent Diyala Province, successfully fighting the insurgency by various Sunni and Shia factions. He was celebrated by his senior officers and decorated with medals. But when the U.S. surge to retake Iraq in 2006 and 2007 finally pushed into Baqubah, a town virtually entirely controlled by al Qaida, Meehan would make the decision that would change his life.
This is the true story of one soldier's attempt to reconcile what he has done with what he felt he had to do. Stark and devastating, it recounts first-hand the reality of a new type of warfare that remains largely unspoken and forgotten on the frontlines of Iraq.
Roger Thompson is Associate Professor of English and Fine Arts at VMI. He is an award-winning nonfiction writer and has published both academic and non-academic work in a variety of journals.
- Compelling first-handaccount of life as a soldier on the frontline in Iraq, written by Lt. Shannon Meehan, a former tank commander in Iraq
- The book is written as an engaging memoir in the first person. Shannon's position as a commander of an armored company provides him with a unique perspective on the war
- This is the story of a soldier trying to cope amidst the chaos, confusion and collateral damage of war.
- It avoids any attempt to cull pedantic lessons from war experiences in favor of openly discussing the most private feelings of a young officer in Iraq who is trying to do his best and lead his men under horrendously difficult circumstances
- His story revolves around the profound limitations he experiences in reconciling his actions as a soldier with his beliefs as a civilian, and it poignantly illustrates a person trying to cope with how his life has changed
Military Writers Society of America
"The book resonates because Meehan speaks not for sympathy but for understanding, and because - sadly - his personal story is one the other service members know well."
"Highly recommended ... This work serves as a reminder of some of the costs of war in modern times and leaves readers 'dazed and confused' over how to respond and what to think about the situation in Iraq."
Central European Journal of International and Security Studies
"An exceptional book. It takes the reader to Iraq, to feel all sides of a deployed soldiers life, from the boredom, the bullshit to the battles and the searing heat inside the tank. This is a book that every American should read in order to get a full accounting of what it means to send men and women off to war. You may finish, but you won't forget Beyond Duty. I can't recommend this one highly enough."
"A straightforward, succint and insightful report of one man's experience at war ... The book resonates because Meehan speaks not for sympathy, but for understanding, and because - sadly - his personal story is one that other service members know well."
Air Force Times
"Beyond Duty is a powerful and heartbreaking account of Lieutenant Shannon Meehan's tour of duty in Iraq, and of his decision in 2007 to call in a missile strike that claimed the lives of innocent civilians. Remorse, shame, self-doubt, depression - these were among the war's emotional aftershocks for Lieutenant Meehan. This honest and painfully intense narrative is a reminder of the terrible costs of warfare, not just as measured by blood or treasure, but also in terms of damage to the human psyche. I will return to this book often."
Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried and winner of the National Book Award
"This memoir is a descent into war's difficult terrain, a landscape which continues on within the veteran as he or she returns home. The archetype of the classic hero is nearly completely destroyed through the personal narrative which chronicles a series of harrowing events in order to reveal a deeper sense of the heroic. Meehan's voice reminds us that the bleeding continues on after the guns have gone silent, even if we don't realize it."
Brian Turner, award-winning author of Here, Bullet, and veteran of the Iraq War
"Meehan explores the complicated anxieties of battle and command with precision and intelligence. He treats colossally horrific situations with admirable emotional restraint, and his strong, taut narrative has a visceral impact. This is a book that ranks among the very best writing that is being done today about events on the frontline in Iraq."
James Hutchisson, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina
"For better or for worse, this memoir documents what the war in Iraq has been: young soldiers doing their heartbreaking best to do the right thing amid confusion, chaos and collateral damage."
Mary Russell, award-winning author of A Thread of Grace and The Sparrow