On October 3, 2009, the Taliban attacked Combat Outpost Keating in one of the deadliest battles U.S. Forces have faced. In “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” Jake Tapper attempts to tell the story not only of the battle, but of the soldiers who were there and the families who were affected by it. I’m not really comfortable saying that I “loved” the book considering the subject matter, but it is one I highly recommend.
Jake’s storytelling and the way he pieced together what happened was so well done, you’ll forget that you’re reading a non-fiction book. It was almost surreal. I’ve read plenty of books before where I formed an emotional bond which characters early on, only to have them not make to the end of the story. This “story” was no different…except when it suddenly hits you that this actually happened. When you read early on about a character trying to find some privacy in a supply closet while he listens to his wife give birth to his first born over the phone, only to read a few chapters later about two other military wives racing to her house to get there before the Army does with the news…none of it is fiction.
And unlike a lot of military books I’ve read, the characters themselves are more “real.” There are too many that are so obviously ghost written, you don’t get a sense of the “real voice” of the people in the book. Everything in “The Outpost” was raw: the raw emotions of losing your brother, the honest feelings when you first hear your tour is extended and you aren’t going home, the reaction from the families when they first hear the news. When you here the soldiers’ criticism of Washington or their Commander-in-Chief, it wasn’t put there by an editor who thought it would make for a nice political statement or good for promotion. It actually happened. It was in the moment. It was what these guys honestly thought.
We get so caught up in trivial nonsense; it’s easy to lose sight of some of the things the matter. I remember as I was reading this book thinking how Jake Tapper spent the better part of the past few years talking to and hearing about some of the best this country has to offer, yet if I took a break to check Twitter there would be people arguing with him because saying “and” instead of “or” meant his “political bias” was showing. Even today, where attacks in the Middle East have claimed the lives of our fellow Americans, yet the top story on cable news seems to be a bunch of people sitting around a table and acting like the fat kid from “A League of Their Own” taunting “you’re gonna lose” to one of the presidential candidates.
Too often it feels like the only people who were even aware that there is/was a war going on are just the families of the men and women who have been directly affected by it…which isn’t right nor fair (and borders on disgusting). Stories like these told in “The Outpost” need to be told more often and honestly than they are. We owe it to the memories of the fallen, and to the service and sacrifice both them and their families haven’t given to their country.
Stories that I’m haven’t heard told both more eloquently and brutally honest as in Jake Tapper’s “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.” I seriously can’t recommend this book enough.