Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Rise - A Soldier, A Dream, and A Promise Kept" by Daniel Rodriguez and Joe Layden

A week ago the Clemson Tigers came here to Boston to play the Boston College Eagles football team.  Wearing #83 on his orange Clemson jersey was wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez.  Rodriquez, with the able assistance of Joe Layden, tells his story of transition from the battlefield to the football field in "Rise - A Soldier, A Dream, and A Promise Kept."

What makes this book a compelling read is how transparent Rodriguez is in telling the good, the bad and the ugly of his life.  Library shelves are groaning under the weight of the hundreds of memoirs that have been written in the past few years by warriors returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  To gain mind share in an overcrowded market, it takes something unique.  This book qualifies on several levels.  How many former enlisted Army infantryman have returned to play Division I while tipping the scales at 175 pounds and standing 5' 8"?  And in the telling of their story, how many authors have been so forthcoming about their high school academic failures, experimentation with drugs and alcohol, and running a black market operation in smuggled booze in Iraq?

A particularly riveting section of the book describes a battle in which the remote outpost where Rodriguez and his friends patrolled in Afghanistan was over-run by hundreds of Taliban in an unusually well coordinated attack.  He lost close friends that day, and his promise to one of those fallen friends was part of what helped Rodriguez to push through the darkest days after returning home to Virginia, deciding not to commit suicide, and getting himself in shape to be able to walk onto the football team at Clemson.  The author gives lavish praise and thanks to his Army comrades, and coaches, mentors and role models that have helped make him the man that he is today.

The book is an inspiration to anyone battling demons that would seek to destroy.  Mr. Rodriguez scores a touchdown with this memoir.



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