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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Threaten the Body Destroy the Mind by Joseph Givens


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Typically, when I first start my reviews, I offer my readers either the Amazon.com or Goodreads.com synopsis or my own (depending on my time constraints). However, in this case, I believe that can come a bit later as I believe this memoir was nothing like this was made out to be.

To begin, I received a request to review from one of the websites I am a member of. The e-mail went like this:

"Air Force Videographer Deployed to Iraq Faces Threats from Within and Without in the New Autobiography, Threaten The Body, Destroy The Mind 

When Joseph Givens signed up to fight the War on Terror, he had no idea the threats would come from his own comrades. He recounts his story in Threaten The Body, Destroy The Mind.

Huntsville, AL – A fresh-faced airman joins the United States' War on Terror, bent on getting the bad guy. Little did Joseph Givens know, he'd be facing a different kind of terror from his own military comrades and commanders. His story is told in vivid detail in the newly released Threaten The Body, Destroy The Mind. A little over two years after joining the Air Force, 20-year-old Joseph Givens deployed to Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. There, his worst experience as an American came from unexpected sources – his own superiors. From the physical abuse of airmen at Air Force basic training to the lack of preparation for a deployment to Iraq to being threatened to death at gun point by a superior while working on a closed mission to Iran, Givens' military experience was harrowing. During his years in the military, 2002 to 2012, he suffered commanders' negligence that culminated in a commanding officer's cover-up that would haunt him and his family for years to come."

I'll admit it... I was hooked & hoping I would be one of the lucky ones chosen to read and review this memoir. While eagerly awaiting my copy to be delivered, I went to Goodreads, and read what they had listed. 

From Goodreads: Some of us do things in life to make a difference, have a positive impact on our country, and create a better life for the next generations. We hold on to our ethics and morals, and put trust into the system - but what happens when that system turns on you. "Moore was speaking, but I was too shocked to understand what he was saying, initially. I had on my bullet proof vest, but that wasn't going to help any, because he had the gun pointed directly at my forehead. I calmed down enough to gather what he was saying. "If you ever do that again I will put a bullet in your head and kill you," he said.

When you put those two things together, you are pretty much guaranteed a gripping novel that will have you quickly demanding a change in how our military operates and causing you to feel sympathy with the author who had to live through these ordeals right?

Wrong.

My Rating: 0 Stars out of 5 

Yes. You read right. 0 out of 5 stars. Why did I give such a low score you ask? Well... lets see...

To begin, there were details contained in this memoir that had absolutely no bearing on the story as a whole. For example, I do not need to know about the sex life of a character who is only in the story because she broke her ankle therefore causing the author to be sent to Iraq in her place. 
Throughout the memoir, the author seemed to display a predilection for violence. After "the incident" he envisions turning his weapon on the "offending officer" and shooting him several times.  When he goes in front of a (female) superior officer to file a complaint against his mistreatment, he flat out states that if he had had the "backbone then" that he has now, he would have punched her because she asked him to "forgive" the other soldier involved in the incident because he "said he was sorry". In the next chapter he clearly states "I wanted the man dead and I didn't care how it happened" 

The way he puts facts out with nothing to substantiate his claims. is a consistent theme within this memoir  For example in a later chapter, he refers to a mission he is called to do with the female officer that he shows a distinct disdain for. In this chapter, he refers to her as "being prissy and trying to be the center of attention". I found it most disturbing when (again in reference to the female superior officer) he thinks to himself, "Let the retard go". To me, that is a very disgusting word to think about anyone, and regardless of whether or not that was his actual thought at the time has no place in a published work. I was offended just reading the word, I cannot imagine how the people actually involved (should they come to learn about this book and read it), would react. He even goes so far to say that should they be attacked the officer would die because he was not going to sacrifice his own life "for her, for America or for the freedom of the Iraqi people". Something with that sort of mentality (in my opinion) has no place in the service, much less in an active war zone. They become a danger to their fellow soldiers. 

This memoir is also filled with discrepancies in the most mundane topics which leads me to not lend much credence to other aspects of the book. One example that strongly sticks out in my mind is when in Chapter 6, the author refers to the local food "unflavored", where in Chapter 4, he describes it as being "wonderful" going as far as to say, "breakfast, lunch and dinner were all awesome". 

One of the chapters that stood out most for me (and again not in a good way), is the chapter where he discusses putting his uniform in his gym back before PT instead of carrying it in on a hanger. He was spoken to by what he refers to as "an older enlisted black gentlemen) and the man tells him that he needs to carry his uniform on a hanger. He says the man wanted to speak to him about his "uniform and look of presentation" and how "it looks to certain people when my clothes were not on a hanger". The author then goes on about how the mans words were not beneficial to him, going so far as to say "the bastard just wanted me to make an impression in front of white people while I carried my uniform on a hanger". He then accuses the older man of suffering from "slave mentality disorder" and goes on to state how for months after that he made sure to carry his uniform only in his gym bag.

This particular chapter struck a chord with me, being that my husband is an Iraq War Veteran as well. And the Military does want things done a certain way. You are to treat your uniform with respect, not shove it in a gym bag because "its convenient" or you want to piss people off. The author even states in that same section that "the military has rules and regulations for a reason", but he seems to be operating under the impression that those rules and regulations are only in place to "appease a certain group of people". 

Finally, off topic of the actual account and going solely on the formatting of this book, the author continually uses "" while thinking and speaking, oftentimes making it hard to differentiate between the two.  

DISCLAIMER: As this is a memoir of a specific person's experiences while enlisted in the US Military, I do not disagree with his experiences as he remembers them, nor do I claim to know the factual details of the events that took place. This is merely my own thoughts and opinions as I read through this. 

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