Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
2007.11.11 : Some Guys You Should Probably Know
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

On Memorial Day/Remembrance Day 2007 (okay, slightly after), I'd like to take the liberty of introducing you to a couple of guys I think you should probably know at least a little about.

Meet Mark Daily: twenty-three years old, a registered Democrat, UCLA political science graduate, voracious reader, and (initially) opponent of the war in Iraq. But he was also a outspoken proponent of human rights and the plight of the oppressed. Eventually, in part after reading the writings of Christopher Hitchens (in particular this piece), he changed his position on the war – on the moral case for the war – and decided that it was his duty to go and help.

He joined the Army, went through Basic and Officer Training, and shipped out for Mosul . . . I'm stopping here, feeling the futility of my attempt to say anything worthy of this guy. He was the most articulate writer on his reasons for going, and you can read his full statement here on his MySpace page. In a letter home, he wrote:

"I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as 'freedom fighters' or 'misguided anti-capitalists.' Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said 'the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life – to murder, and you get paid to save lives.' He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me . . ."

In a letter home to his parents, he wrote: "I am now happily doing what I was trained to do, and am fulfilling an obligation that has swelled inside me for years . . ." In one to his young wife (the daughter of political refugees from Bulgaria), he wrote: "One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. My desire to 'save the world' is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you."

On January 14th, he e-mailed his family: "All is well. More war stories then I can fit in this e-mail. Having the time of my life!" The next day he went on patrol, during which he noticed that the Humvee ahead of his was not "up-armoured"; he insisted on changing places. Shortly after, an explosive device detonated underneath his vehicle, instantly killing him and three of his fellows.

You can read more about him in this story in the LA Times, or in this piece in Vanity Fair by Hitchens, who spent time with his family. I hope you will. I'm pretty sure I don't I have any words that could possibly do justice to this man, or to honor him. I just wanted you to know about him.

U.S. Army First Seargent Paul Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was in an engineering battalion, building an improvised POW area in a courtyard, when his group of maybe 16 guys was attacked by about a hundred Iraqis – some of whom ascended to a nearby tower, firing down on them, in an intense cross-fire. He summoned a couple of Bradley fighting vehicles, which initially held off the mass of enemies, but were damaged and ran low on ammo and withdrew.

Smith realised that a nearby medical aid station would be in danger of being overrun if he abandoned the position. So instead he re-organised the defense, personally manning the .50 caliber machine gun of an armoured personnel carrier – covering both (alternately) the threatened entrance to the courtyard, and the tower from which they were taking fire above. He fired non-stop, going through three boxes of ammunition – while a small team assaulted the tower from the other side.

The tower was taken, and the battle and firing ended – at which point Smith was found slumped in the turret of the APC. His armoured vest had stopped 13 bullets, the ceramic inserts cracking in several places. One of the very last shots from the tower had hit his neck and head, killing him. You can read the whole thrilling and tragic story here.

Dan Schilling was an Air Force Combat Controller (a Special Forces role) in Somalia, and one of the guys to shoot his way out of downtown Mogadishu on October 3rd,2003. Readers of the book Blackhawk Down will know the name. (Though I can't recall if he figured in the movie.) Anyway, he's co-editor and one of the contributors to a new book of essays by guys who survived that day: The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts from the Men of Task Force Ranger.

Whereas one of the strengths – aside from being unutterably thrilling – of Mark Bowden's original book was the way it covered the battle from an omniscient viewpoint, roving from place to place . . . this one gives you the view of individual soldiers as they tried to navigate and survive the day, from their own corner of events. They're pretty much all really good; but Schilling's piece, which closes the collection, is worth thrice the price of admission alone. It's literary, sensitive, funny, well-observed, and more harrowing than the best thriller you've ever read. Like all the best first-person literary non-fiction, it leaves you feeling an awful lot like you know the guy. Buy his book.

Incidentally, the guy hasn't slowed down: Last year he broke the world base-jumping record, parachuting 201 times from a 486-foot bridge into Snake River Gorge in Utah. Aside, presumably, from keeping himself feeling alive and challenged, he did it to raise money ($20,000) for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization that awards full college scholarships to the children of special operations soldiers who have died in battle. If you want to kick in a couple of bob to help the kids of those who died protecting us, click here.

And while I'm hustling you, here are a few more ways you can pitch in behind those who defend the Republic (short of enlisting and going out to help in person):

  • The USO - the original organisation to support the troops
  • Any Soldier - want to send cookies, toiletries, or just words of support to our men and women in harm's way? Address it to "Any Soldier"!
  • Adopt-a-Sniper - want to send sand-free lube, scope batteries, or better body armour to the Marine snipers who brought the Falluja insurgents to their knees (and their colleagues)? Adopt a Sniper!
  • The Royal British Legion - provides financial, social and emotional support to millions who have served and are currently serving in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, and their dependants.

  books     hitch     love     the long war     the military     charity  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
from email:

to email(s) (separate w/commas):
By subscribing to Dispatch from the Razor’s Edge, you will receive occasional alerts about new dispatches. Your address is totally safe with us. You can unsubscribe at any time. All the cool kids are doing it.