Review: Welcome to Hell
Welcome to Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp
When I first started reading Welcome to Hell, I thought it would be a very male-interest book. Of course, the story has guts and glory, camaraderie, big guns, and angry drill sergeants. But it’s bigger than that. Though he’s writing about a very male world, Mr. Turley’s story doesn’t confine itself to gender-based interest. He writes compellingly about being human in situations where the outcome matters to the world.
In the aftermath of 9/11, two young men enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. As Mr. Turley says, though he and his friend signed away their freedoms and even their lives, and pledged to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, they still had to earn the right to defend the Constitution. Welcome to Hell is the story of how they earned it. They not only earned that right, they came out men who had learned to set aside their freedoms, privacy, fears, and pride in order to serve well.
Mr. Turley’s story is inspiring not because he overcame his struggles with boot camp and the drill instructors, but because he overcame his struggles with himself. Though it seems on the surface like training took away his freedoms- when to sleep, when to brush his teeth, how long he had to eat and when to sleep, all the tiny decisions that we take for granted- it eventually became clear that those rights weren’t taken away. He gave them away. The will to give up what’s rightfully yours for someone else’s good is the core of this story. It’s difficult. It’s honorable. Most of us couldn’t do it on this scale.
The writing in Welcome to Hell is clean and humorous. Mr. Turley’s sense of humor makes a serious narrative an enjoyable one. His writing is smooth and competent, and lets the focus stay on the story. He does a fantastic job of combining the pain and humiliation of boot camp with interesting details about the techniques and skills they were learning. Details about the weapons and drills are smoothly integrated into the story, providing an insider glimpse of a fascinating world.
Clean writing, interesting subject matter, and a humorous voice pull together to make this a good story, but what makes it a great story is bigger than those things. The death of Mr. Turley’s father put him to the test in ways boot camp never could. He could have left; he could have stayed home to be with his family. Grief and loss in the middle of something already so trying is unfairly difficult. But Mr. Turley’s response is ultimately a tribute to humanity. How he overcomes these things reveals much about human strength and courage.
The book ends with a collection of stories from fellow Marines, some funny and some sad, but they all serve to show that even Mr. Turley’s story ultimately isn’t about himself. It’s about his father, about Marines, about being human. I definitely recommend reading Welcome to Hell.
Visit Mr. Turley’s website here.
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