YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN: The Story of a Lost World War II Pilot and a Twenty-First Century Soldier's Mission to Bring Him Home. By Bryan Bender. Doubleday. 317 pages. $26.95
In his new book "You Are Not Forgotten," Boston Globe reporter Bryan Bender weaves together two fascinating stories separated by more than six decades.
The first focuses on Captain Ryan McCown, a Charleston native and Marine fighter pilot who was shot down over the jungles of New Guinea during World War II.
The second and more dominant storyline follows Major George Eyster, a career soldier from a long family line of Army officers who grows disillusioned with his chosen profession after a tour in Iraq.
As he debates his future, Eyster takes an assignment with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, commonly know as JPAC.
JPAC Teams travel the globe each year, searching for the remains of missing service members from past wars.
This new assignment leads to the merger of the book's two storylines as Eyster eventually finds and recovers McCown's remains - pieces of bone and 19 teeth, including some with fillings - allowing the long-missing airman to return home at last and be buried in the Unitarian Church cemetery on Archdale Street in downtown Charleston.
On a larger level, the quest to find and honor America's fallen offers Eyster a new sense of purpose and meaning in his career as a soldier.
Bender is an excellent writer, and he deftly merges the two storylines into a wonderful narrative. His recounting of how JPAC teams interview locals and search through dense jungles for decades-old crash sites is fascinating and inspiring.
He likewise does a great job illuminating the central characters of his narrative, including McCown, whom Bender is able to animate thanks to wartime letters, diaries and interviews. Local readers will no doubt find these descriptions of life in wartime Charleston fascinating.
Bender's worthwhile book serves as an excellent tribute not only to the sacrifice of service members like McCown but also to the dedicated JPAC teams whose mission each day is to find them and bring them home.
Reviewer James Scott is the author of "The War Below" and "The Attack on the Liberty." He lives in Mount Pleasant.