I am going to admit something that I hope you don't hate me for. When I was in high school the only people that joined the military were those who would never have made it at a four year institution. I developed the idea that our armed forces were full of people who were not as bright as those who were college bound. Of course I have realized my error in judgement many times over by now. There are many very, very intelligent people in the military, and it is unfortunate that the only examples I had while growing up were those who were looking for something to do after high school was something that didn't involve more school.
It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace by Rye Barcott is a memoir that would challenge anyone's ideas about the intelligence of our military.
Barcott was only twenty, a college student bound for the Marines, when he decided to move to Africa and live in Kibera, one of Nairobi, Kenya's slums. His aim was to better understand ethnic violence and make a difference in these people's lives. He began to study Swahili and eventually set up an NGO, Carolina for Kibera, which has focused on participatory development and received recognition from Melinda Gates and Barack Obama.
Leaving Africa, Barcott writes of his time in the Marines and his deployments to Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. He also shares bits of his personal life: as the son of two highly educated and successful professionals, and the relationship with his now wife, Tracy as the two dated and Rye struggled with his goals and dreams.
Had I harbored any misguided notions about the intelligence of those serving our country, Barcott's writing and his experiences certainly changed all of that. This was an amazing book, sharing the story of a forgotten people in Africa whose daily lives are a struggle for survival, and his own military experience and beliefs. When I checked this book out I thought I would be reading a memoir about Barcott's time serving in the military, and while it is that, it is also so much more.