Audio Book Review: One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War

By Bing West

Once you get to reading some authors’ work, all you want to do is read the rest of their books. And never finding yourself disappointed in their writing, you can’t help but tell everyone you know about their work. Bing West is that sort of author.

Looking up his bio is very difficult for a blind guy so I will let you look him up. Prepare to be impressed.

A lot of his books have that quality that makes you feel as if you are there and have somehow become personal friends with the people he writes about. I don’t know, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole on my part. Maybe it is simply because I too am a Marine and even a quarter of a century later, recognize the personalities he describes in this book.

Not only is One Million Steps a step back in time, it is also a window into the future of the Marine Corps. I have had conversations with others over the years in which I explain, or try to explain, what it is that makes the Marine Corps different from the other branches of our armed forces. I will be fairly simplistic: Marines don’t fight for the Flag, Mom or Apple Pie. Marines fight for the Marine next to him or her. They fight to honor those who came before them, and they fight to set the example for those who follow them. It is a culture that fights to exist. Essentially, Marines fight for the Corps. They are prepared to die for their fellow Marine and Corps as well. It’s not the preferred course of action but it is an accepted fact. Marines fight and Marines die. As long as there is a Marine Corps that honors its history and legacy, then those who do perish on the battlefield will live on in the hearts and minds of his or her fellow Marines, and in the annals of the Corps itself.

Bing West is that sort of Old Breed who makes sure that our traditions live on. He does this by getting his ass out there on patrol with men who could easily be his grandchildren. He spends time in the trenches, lives without showers, eats bad chow and shares the misery that comes from living in a combat environment.

Bing West takes us along for a tour of combat in one of the deadliest places on this planet, Helmand Province in Afghanistan. It is where Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (3/5) took the fight to the Taliban and became legends.

Of course you have probably never heard of the battles that the third platoon, Kilo Company, waged nearly every day while working to pacify this region, a region that previously had been occupied by a unit from the British armed forces.

The contrast between the two units is striking. West details the passive, non-committal strategy that was adopted by the British and the results that transpired. When the Marines came in, it was if they were forced to start all over. Forced to confront an enemy that went unmolested for years. The Marines battled for every step. I cannot fathom the thought of every patrol being led by a Marine with a metal detector, yet that was what was necessary. Even still, the amount of IED’s that the Taliban planted were so numerous that it was simply impossible for every one to be discovered. Many were discovered by Marines and Corpsman the hard way, with the ramifications being a ride home in a body bag. More, and I mean many more found themselves missing limbs, crippled for the rest of their lives.

Yet with the competent leadership so prevalent in the United States Marine Corps, third platoon kept taking the fight to the enemy. In doing so, they left a somewhat safer battle zone for the Battalion that relieved them after their tour was complete.

This is the in-depth story of the sacrifice made by these men. You probably won’t find it talked about it in any newspaper or cable news program. You should, but you won’t. Buy this book. If you do, maybe someday, the story of these brave warriors will be told on the big screen as all Heroes’ stories should be. Let’s make their names known throughout every household in this country. It is an honor that has been earned in blood.

Semper Fi.