Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson

Posted: April 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

A tough but powerful look at one man’s experience.   As a student in suburban Albany, Ryan Smithson 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.

  1. Julia Tabaczyk says:

    Julia Tabaczyk/Ms. Saunders & Ms. Madonia/ 1st Period

    a. Why did you choose this particular book from the Abe list?
    I chose to read the book, The Ghosts of War because up until this point in my life I have never read any material about the Iraq War or the experience of a soldier in the U.S. Army. I hoped after reading this book it would give me a better understanding about what it is like to be in the military and the reasoning behind going to fight in Iraq.

    b. Do you relate to the characters in the book? Why or why not?
    The experiences and the situations Ryan Smithson, the main character went through are unlike anything I have ever done in my life. At the age of 19, Smithson decided to enter the military after the attacks on 9/11. At the time, Smithson joined the U.S. Army because it felt like the right thing to do when the city he lived in and loved was deeply affected by the terrorists. Ten years ago on September 11th, I was only in first grade. At the time I wasn’t old enough to fully understand the gravity of the situation, but now that I am older and have read about the attacks I can understand the way he was thinking and feeling.

    c. Do you think this book was worthy of being on this year’s Abe list? Why or why not?
    I believe that this book deserves to be on this year’s Abe list because it illustrates what war is like from the point of view of an American soldier during the Iraq War. After reading this book, I discovered that the media plays a major role in twisting events and situations to make the public think in a certain way. While the media tries to portray the truth about the horrors of war, they often forget to mention that Americans are not the only ones fighting. Ryan Smithson’s experience as a member of the U.S. Army, shed light on the fact that many Iraqi’s are struggling with harsh dictators and hunger. This book opened my eyes and made me change the way I think about war.

    d. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
    I enjoyed reading the book, The Ghosts of War because it showed me that war is about fighting for what is right and abandoning the things you love. After reading about Ryan Smithson’s day to day experiences during his tour of duty in Iraq, it made me realize how lucky we are to be Americans and to live in a place that is full of resources and opportunity. Many people believe that the United States when to war to fight the terrorists that deeply hurt our country on 9/11, but we are also there to help the Iraqi people fight for the opportunity to become something better. Sometimes in order to help others, you have to make the ultimate sacrifice. I highly recommend The Ghosts of War.

  2. Brian Lysne says:

    Why did I pick this book?
    I choose this book becasue it had me hooked right when i had heard the story line. Non fiction war storys are my favorite types of books to read. It is a topic that always interests me. I thought it would be interestin as well because of it being the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and thats one of the reason the character joins the army. I thought it would be a great connection between the two.

    Mrs. Saunders
    period 2

  3. Brian Lysne says:

    Do I relate to any of the characters in this book?
    My answer is yes and no. I see my self kind of like Ryan Smithson because he is just and average highschool kid in the start of the book and being in high school i felt like i related. Also Ryan Smithson, is a very caring and brave individual. He gives up 4 years of his life for the good of the United States and one day i would like to do the same for my country. I feel like I do not relate to him because I have never had to go to war and give up everything I had. Its easy to say I could relate to that, but that would be a lie. I do not know fully what he went through being gone for all those years. When i have never left the country.
    Brian Lysne
    Period 2 Saunders

  4. Aiden Quirini says:

    Aiden Quirini/ Period 6/8 Billie

    1) I chose this book because there’s a certain amount of suspense to autobiographies about deployment, one of my favorites being “House to House” which has a very similar story, and it was one of my favorite books of all time.
    2) I could relate to the main character because he too talks about high school and the never ending pursuit of being cool and popular.
    3) I think it was worthy of this years Abe List because it was a well written book that really explains what the men and women who make this country great need to go through in order to achieve even the lowest ran k in the military.
    4)I did like the book because it was rather action packed and really showed first hand the life of a military private.

  5. Brian Lysne says:

    Did you like the book why or why not?
    I did truely enjoy this book. It was just the type of book i like to read. The book got me hooked from the very beginning from the way the author told his story. Also his expierence in the military was also intriguing to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.

    period 2 Saunders

  6. Peter Medick says:

    I think this book was worthy of being on the abe’s list because it was a creative way to talk about a historical event. It followed the soldier through his conflict, this way of writing was very easy to fllow and made it easy to get really into the book.

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