Charlie Mike

Charlie Mike

A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home

Joe Klein

Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2015, 320 pages

Book Review published on: June 2, 2017

Charlie Mike may not be for you. If you are a combat veteran that has transitioned well into civilian life, it may not reflect your experiences. However, you probably know someone who needs to read this book: the soldier (or marine) in the Warrior Transition Unit ready to walk out the door but who hasn’t truly left, or the veteran sitting on his couch watching television, playing video games, and not engaging with the world around them. They are the men or women who say they are “okay” but aren’t really ready for the change that comes when transitioning into civilian life. Or as the author puts it—

… the too fast decompression that came from leaving the Marines, a tight knit organization with a sense of higher purpose, and being dumped alone, in a society with no organized purpose at all except for making money and having fun.

Charlie Mike is the true story of the healing power of service work. It chronicles two groups of veterans, who after returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq, went through the above-described turmoil and did something remarkable—they helped themselves (and countless others) through continued service for their communities, their fellow veterans, and ultimately, their country. Their leadership and actions led to the establishment of two organizations, The Mission Continues and Team Rubicon. These two groups have performed numerous service projects, both inside and outside the United States, for disaster areas and communities in need.

Joe Klein is well known; his work can regularly be found in the pages of Time. He is also the author of nonfiction works such as Woody Guthrie: A Life and Payback: Five Marines after Vietnam as well as fiction works such as the New York Times best-seller Primary Colors and The Running Mate.

Charlie Mike reads like a novel, taking the reader through the personal stories of veterans beginning in combat through their transition from the military, to their personal investment in The Mission Continues or Team Rubicon. Each story is told from the veteran’s personal perspective, so the reader gets the visceral response to the combat environment and the internal struggles of the veterans in civilian life. During this journey, the veterans come to realize that the spirit, attitudes, values, and beliefs that win battles in combat can also make the world a better place for everyday citizens. Ultimately, the service members realize that their community service helps the needy and themselves as well.

Charlie Mike is told from a personal perspective and shows what worked for these groups, which are now growing. It is not a singular approach to all that ails the veteran’s community but a way to assist those who are struggling and miss the camaraderie and structure of military life.

This book should be required reading for transition and mental health counselors, veteran’s service organizations, and everyone in the Veterans Administration. Charlie Mike is written through the eyes of the individual veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other theaters of war. It is not only a guide for a society welcoming home the veteran who fought for them but also for the soldier who has seen combat and is now faced with a completely different challenge, transitioning to civilian life.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Jacob A. Mong, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas