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Monday, February 8, 2010

Final Salute:A Story of Unfinished Lives by J. Sheeler, 2008,* * *

Based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning story, Jim Sheeler's shines an unprecedented look at the way our country honors its dead. Final Salute Is a stunning tribute to the soldiers who have died in Iraq and their devastated families. Sheeler spent two years shadowing Maj. Steve Beck, a marine in charge of casualty notification, as he delivered the news of battlefield death to families. The reader is put in Beck's shoes as he walks up to houses, delivers the knock on the door dreaded by every military family, and tries to comfort distraught spouses and parents. . After the knock on the door, the story has only begun. From the beginning, Major Beck decided, if he was going to do this job, he would do it his way, the way he would want it done if he were the one in the casket. He learned each dead Marine's name and nickname; touched the toys they grew up with, read the letters they wrote home and held grieving mothers in long embraces. This is an achingly beautiful, devastatingly honest story of the true toll of war. Jim Sheeler weaves together the stories of the fallen and of the broken homes they have left behind and also tells the story of Major Beck and his unflagging efforts to help heal the wounds of those left grieving. Above all, it is a moving tribute to our troops, putting faces to the mostly anonymous names of our courageous heroes, and to the brave families who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

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