The Weekend Warriors
by James W. Burke JR

"The earth crumbled and shook, raining large clods of dirt down on her. The roar of the diesel and squeals of the tracks drowned out her screams and sobs. "

The title refers to the oft-used sobriquet for members of National Guard or reserve units whose service, after initial active duty training, generally consists of two-week summer camp deployments and weekend assemblies each month. The nickname is frequently used to denigrate reserve or guard troops as something less than real soldiers. Burke’s novel attempts to counter such thinking. He fictionalizes a Russian attempt to seize territory by making a preemptive strike into Germany. NATO forces react quickly and the United States mobilizes reserve and National Guard units to support the full time military in dealing with the Soviet incursion. The story is personalized by focusing on a reserve officer who is called to active duty and rapidly deployed overseas. Readers share the heartache of separation experienced by the officer and his family. However, there is little time for sentimentality as the tale quickly moves to a shooting war in Europe.

Logistics, strategy, tactics, and more are realistically depicted as the Americans engage a sophisticated and highly motivated enemy. Scenes of combat vividly portray the fear, cowardice, courage, and heroism that are part of every armed conflict. The author pulls no punches in depicting the awful things that can happen to the human body during mechanized warfare. Burke’s prose is concise and confident, particularly when addressing the milieu soldiers operate in and the minutia they have to deal with. The interpersonal relationships he creates between his characters are both compelling and convincing. For those who like novels with endings that tie up all the loose ends, this finale may feel a bit abrupt and perhaps unfinished. Others however, may view it as a reminder that the cessation of hostilities does not always clarify victory or defeat.

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