This is the autobiography of the 14th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, who rose from a farm in North Carolina to be the chief military advisor of President Clinton, and briefly, and not nearly long enough, President Bush, through October 2011. The book incorporates three interwoven themes.
The first is the biography of a career army officer who set off to become an aeronautical engineer, discovered an interest and a proficiency in the military, and rose rapidly through the officer cadre, learning lesson after lesson in leadership, how to, and, most importantly, how not to, lead and inspire men to perform the role of defending our nation, working within the constraints of our democratic institutions. In every situation, Shelton analyzes how the goal of an effective, cost efficient military can be achieved while the interests of enlisted men and their families are preserved. This often requires standing up to special interests, and courage of a different order than that which is recognized in medals and citations.
The second is the history of the evolution of the army of the Viet Nam era to the all-volunteer army that first contracted, and then expanded to undertake an ever-expanding agenda in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. What experiences does it take to mold an officer to effectively embrace greater and greater responsibility, and what are the lessons learned at each stage that enable him to persevere and not lose sight of the goal, nor adopt expediency at the cost of integrity. Shelton has an infallible moral compass, and the courage to stand up to the volleys of egotistical politicians, bent on making a reputation over the sacrifices of others. He is a warrior who looks to the most efficient plan to prevail at the least cost in human lives. His presence in the cabinet room and the Oval Office allows the reader an insight into how and why decisions were made, and who deserves the credit and the blame. He tells it like it is and allows you to draw your own conclusions.
Finally, it is an inspiring story of an active man, an athlete who ran every morning and never spent a day in the hospital until a fall off a ladder led to paraplegia, a confrontation with death, and a truly remarkable recovery that demonstrates what willpower and the very best in medical care can accomplish.
Our country was admirably served by this great American, and the reader will be entertained by his stories, and inspired by his courage, and feel great satisfaction in the triumph of a man of integrity over one obstacle after another. On a scale of 1 to 10 = 12!