The Price of Their Blood: Profiles in Spirit – Book Review
The Price of Their Blood: Profiles in Spirit
Jesse Brown and Daniel Paisner
Bonus Books: Chicago, 2003, (220 pages).
Jesse Brown was, as a young Marine in 1965, wounded near Da Nang, Republic of South Vietnam, in a firefight that left his right arm paralyzed. Thankfully, the paralysis didn’t extend to his spirit. And for the next 33 years, he worked to insure that all of America’s disabled veterans were given every opportunity to succeed, first through the Disabled American Veteran’s organization, and finally as Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs under President Clinton. He once told a reporter that “Anyone who puts his or her life on the line deserves to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect”, and according to co-author Daniel Paisner, these words became his “marching orders.” Unfortunately, Mr. Brown succumbed to the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in August, 2003.
Before he passed away though, Mr. Brown had one last important project to complete: a book about disabled American veterans that would serve to call positive attention both to them and to their effort to build a national memorial to all disabled veterans in Washington, DC. More importantly, he wanted to prove that given the opportunity, any disability can be overcome in the quest to be all that one can be.
In a sense, this book follows a long line of first-person military histories like Studs Terkel’s The Good War, and Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. But it takes the stories told in those works a step further. Brown explores not only how one’s life is changed in combat, but more importantly, how one can take those changes and make other lives even better. And here, he has mostly succeeded.
The Price of Their Blood examines the lives of 10 soldiers from World War II through today’s war on terror in Afghanistan. In each vignette, Brown traces the life of an individual through their early years, to their call to service, to the event of their wounding, and to their lives after rehabilitation. The stories are, for the most part, both moving and uplifting. In fact, for someone like me who has never known what they experienced, at times it is heroically unbelievable.
My criticisms of this book are few. There are a number of minor errors that should have been caught by the proof readers: locating Fort Bragg, North Carolina in Kentucky, for example. Other than being minor irritants however, these take nothing away from the stories. But, how Mr. Brown chose his subjects is another question.
Most of his characters are full of life, and make you want to stand up and cheer. A couple of them, however, are rather weak. Of all the disabled veterans who have served this country, this book should have been full of nothing less than legitimate heroes. Perhaps this was a function of how Mr. Brown’s subjects were chosen. Still, when the reader has finished this book, he or she will take away a sense of pride in the young soldiers who risk their lives for all of us every day. And more importantly, their stories should give us all the courage to face any challenge. So, if you are looking for a history that will lift your spirits and make you proud, this may be it.