Retired USMC Gunnery Sergeant L. Christian Bussler’s No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor is a powerful memoir of his three tours of duty in Iraq during the ongoing war against terror.
Bussler undertook Marine reserve training immediately upon high school graduation. In his late 20s, the “weekend warrior” volunteered for three Iraqi tours beginning with 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As Bussler details his experiences at war, he is exceptional at allowing readers to view the conflict through his eyes and emotions. He conveys, for example, the surrealism of being caught in an IED (improvised explosive device) detonation during his second tour, an incident that sent him home with shrapnel in his thigh, an ice-cream scoop size hole in his calf, and thankful he’d been carrying the unit’s radio, which had absorbed shrapnel that might otherwise have killed him.
The memoir is especially effective when the author concentrates on his third tour, a period when he did formidable work leading teams that recovered those killed in action. In one passage, he recounts plucking minuscule pieces of human remains from an armored personnel carrier’s interior, where body parts had melted into the aluminum alloy and blood had turned to dust. He recovered the fallen with diligence and the utmost dignity.
The narrative proceeds chronologically and focuses on Bussler’s American colleagues; there’s little here about the Iraqis. Bussler is unafraid to examine what he perceives as his own failings. And he offers straightforward, honest judgments of officers and other fellow Marines, some of whom he sees as incompetent or self-aggrandizing.
The author isn’t a stylist, but he does his subject as much justice as he did his military work. Regardless of one’s opinions about the war in Iraq, this is an eye-opening memoir that provides a potent, you-are-there reading experience—one that will engage thoughtful citizens and historians alike.
Gunnery Sergeant L. Christian Bussler’s No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine recounts three tours of duty during the Iraq War, during which he recovered and identified the remains of fallen service members and preparing them for honorable transport home. Bussler tells an unforgettable story of bravery, reverence, camaraderie, and sacrifice, and he offers a staggering portrait of an “ugly world filled with all of its lethalities and bloody ends.”
The book is written in an impeccable first-person narrative style. Bussler, a reserve infantryman, begins with his call to active duty in 2002 as part of the first wave of troops to invade Iraq. He belonged to the only mortuary affairs (MA) platoon in the marine corps. Knowing the grim reality of the task, “none of us ever wanted to be activated to do the mission in a wartime capability,” Bussler writes. “Even though Death might ride his pale horse among our ranks in the coming days, we would not shy away from our duty.”
Duty is a central aspect of the book, and Bussler depicts his respect for it and his performance of it without bravado. Whether he is reverently observing three brothers bid a noble farewell to the tattered corpse of their sibling, draping a crisply ironed American flag over a service member’s coffin, performing battlefield searches for human remains that were “so catastrophically shattered” by IED attacks that their body parts required multiple body bags, or volunteering for a third tour because he trusted his comrades’ lives to no one else, commitment is intrinsic to the soldier and the man.
The book’s large-print format and bulk contributes to a textbook-like reading experience. Even so, cinematic prose captures life in an Iraqi combat zone. Sights, sounds, and smells are distinct, and the nerve-fraying anxiety of witnessing “the daily visages of high-velocity death” penetrates. Bussler also uses beautiful lyricism to describe landscapes and scenes. Humorous passages add lightheartedness to this solemn tale, and profanity-laced storytelling makes Bussler and his brothers-in-arms feel authentic.
Bussler’s group of MA marines processed their first remains during the push to Baghdad toward the end of their first tour in April 2003. He volunteered for his second tour in 2004. The war’s atmosphere had changed since his first deployment—particularly, with the ominous presence of insurgents and the prevalence of IED attacks—and in consideration of this, Bussler offers precise insights about the war’s faltered trajectory.
Bussler’s third tour stands out as his most harrowing and soul-stealing. Bussler conveys heartrending details about his amplified role as a “combat coroner,” and the “incomprehensible assault” on his senses from processing death almost daily.
Suffering from PTSD after his service, Bussler started writing to work through the emotional toll of his experiences. Bussler is both a combat veteran and a gifted writer, and his memoir is a gripping and edifying tour de force.
Reviewed by Amy O'Loughlin
December 1, 2017
How does it feel to be in a war-torn, conflict-riddled zone? No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine by GySgt L. Christian Bussler (Ret.) answers these questions in a fascinating narrative by a Mortuary Marine. Christian Bussler’s work might have been a lot of fun as a postal letter carrier, but then the call came and he found himself ferried off to Iraq, becoming closely and personally involved in the tragedy of war, navigating dangerous streets to retrieve the bodies of fallen soldiers and bring them home. He will be stunned by the experience of war, will find his life hanging by a thread, and will suffer loss. Here is a gritty story of courage and patriotism, with powerful messages of friendship, teamwork, and endurance.
In this autobiographical and military narrative, the author captures the atmosphere in war-torn countries, pulling readers into the world of the protagonist to experience the uncertainty and the pain that soldiers experience. The writing is strong and the author takes readers from one mind-blowing episode to the next gripping one. Friendship and loyalty, duty and patriotism, hope and death are themes that are brilliantly explored. The sense of danger permeates the narrative, taking readers on a historic ride. GySgt L. Christian Bussler may have been a Mortuary Marine officer, but he has a great gift for storytelling and his humor embellishes the story and makes it a really interesting read. No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine is a personal account that features powerful political conflicts, allowing readers to get a sense of history through the eyes of the protagonist.
“Hey Chris, your Marine unit just called the office, and they need you to call them back as soon as possible. I took the call, and they sound pretty serious, buddy. Get in; we need to get you to the nearest phone as soon as we can,” are the words that announce the moment of change for Christian Bussler, a call that makes him stop his day-to-day life as a postal letter carrier in Springfield, Ohio. His Postal Office Supervisor has never been so serious, and things really change drastically for Chris. For the next three years, he’d find himself involved in combat, working as a Mortuary Affairs Marine. No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine by GySgt L. Christian Bussler (Ret.) follows him in the fight to recover the bodies of fallen soldiers and bring them back home. The reader is thrust into a world where danger lies everywhere, following the protagonist and his peers on foot patrol through hostile streets in enemy camp.
This is a story of bravery, of patriotism, and of loss, told in an arresting first person narrative voice. The narrative is impeccable and the author has the rare gift of injecting a deep sense of humanity into the writing, coupled with his singular gift for humor and a unique turn of phrase. From the moment Christian's life is disrupted by the call from his Marine office, the reader is keen on following his every step. It is the point of crisis, and it is interesting to see how the author makes this come out through the writing. I enjoyed the stream of consciousness that punctuates the writing, the dialogues, and the intense emotional passages. No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine by GySgt L. Christian Bussler (Ret.) is one of those books that restore respect to men who have fought for their country and to those who have fallen; a gritty tale that is as entertaining as it is informative.
Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite
No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine by GySgt L. Christian Bussler (Ret.) is a clever military non-fiction story of a Mortuary Affairs Marine. We meet the protagonist in 2002, employed as a postal letter carrier in Springfield, Ohio. But then the call comes and he is thrust into a world of violence and terror, with war raging, and uncertainty a characteristic of his day-to-day experience. Follow him as he walks the streets, stricken by terror, on foot patrol to recover fallen bodies. In this gripping memoir, he takes the reader through the devastating story of being on the path of war, of loss, and the grueling insanity and turmoil that punctuate the story of a Marine who went out to return those who died at war with honor. It’s heart wrenching and very revealing of the horrors of war.
I was taken by surprise with the quality of writing, crisp and captivating in these reminiscences. The author immediately draws the attention of the reader to what his job was like, allowing them to perceive his innermost thoughts and emotions. I connected with the protagonist from the very first sentences of the story. The first person narrative style is accomplished to perfection, allowing readers to see the world, the events, and to experience the conflict from the point of view of the protagonist. It is absorbing and the reader is riveted throughout the narrative. No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine by GySgt L. Christian Bussler is a beautifully told story that will bring tears to the eyes of readers while pricking their consciences.
No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor is a poignant, moving and at times heart-wrenching read that will make readers feel a host of different emotions thanks to its emotive and moving literature. No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor is written by GySgt L. Christian Bussler, a former Mortuary Affairs Marine who has written an autobiographical account of what happened and how he felt when he served in combat. The journey the reader is taken on is a brutal but honest one that will give readers insight into the tragedy of war and the effects it has on a person; especially the effects on somebody who witnesses the harsh realities themselves. The journey, although at times difficult to read thanks to its moving and upsetting scenes, is an incredible book and if you are a reader who loves memoirs or military fiction/non-fiction then you will adore No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor, I know I did.
No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor will take the readers to the start of Bussler’s journey in 2002; this is when we are introduced to Bussler, and at this time he was ‘an everyday postal letter carrier in Springfield, Ohio,’ but soon Bussler is called to service. The reader will follow Bussler over the next three years in which he serves in combat as a Mortuary Affairs Marine which is a role that not many people know about. The role is primarily to recover the bodies of fallen men and prepare them for transportation back to the U.S. As a Marine wife, I know all too well how important and critical this job is, and I think it is a sad fact that not too many people know about the role. The reader will follow Bussler on this honorable, but a tough journey and as they do, they will witness what it was really like on the streets in the fallen cities which are run by terrorists or decimated beyond repair. The journey is a tough one because not only will the witness discover the harshness of war but also the tragedy of war through the loss of fallen men.
Bussler’s story is a powerful one that will undoubtedly move its readers with its emotive, heartfelt text and journey. When I read No Tougher Duty, No Greatest Honor I could not help but be moved by the story, the story at times would terrify me thanks to the hard-hitting scenes, but it would also make me want to cry because of the loss and destruction featured in the story that can be heart-breaking at times. So if you are a reader who is thinking of reading the book then be prepared for a brutally honest account. I should add however that although the book does deal with many poignant themes and features many heart-breaking moments, I would still describe it as an inspirational story that perfectly highlights the hard work men and women do to serve and protect our great country.
Bussler is not only an excellent person for having served and written his story to share with the world, but he is also an incredible writer who writes with heart and poignancy. The literature courtesy of Bussler is dramatic as well as breath-taking and will have the readers turning the pages thanks to the natural flow of the text. The book is never once stagnant and flows beautifully throughout. The descriptions courtesy of Bussler too are phenomenal, and because they are so descriptive and realistic, it means the reader will be able to place themselves in the thick of the story which is great because it will allow the reader to immerse themselves in the harsh realities of war.
No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor is a phenomenal, powerful and poignant book and so I have no choice but to award this incredible read five stars. If you are a reader who is looking to get lost in a moving, honest and touching book then No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor is for you so do not miss out.
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Shortlisted for the Journey (Nonfiction) section of the 2018 Chanticleer Book Awards!!
Place as finalist in the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards under “Nonfiction Military!”