The Little Known El Salvador Civil War – My Book Review

TARNISHED BRASS
by
MAX L. KNIGHT
  Genre: Historical Fiction / Novella / War 
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: September 20, 2019
Number of Pages: 114

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The war in El Salvador as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Army officer, a guerrilla leader, and a refugee turned gang member


Patrick Michael Moynihan finds himself returning to the small Central American country where, as a young impressionistic junior officer, he was thrust into the middle of a brutal civil war.
Miguel Alejandro Xenias, once a member of the ruling elite in El Salvador, recalls his change of heart, advancement within the guerrilla movement, and his new-found hope for the country now that the FMLN is in power.Antonio Cruz, seeking a new life in America, finds only a different kind of hatred and conflict, joins the street gang MS-13, and returns home bringing with him a new kind of warfare.

These perspectives spotlight an ongoing struggle in El Salvador that continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of gang violence throughout the United States.

 
More than just a history of the war in El Salvador, a conflict that ended almost thirty years ago, Tarnished Brass gives voice to those who fought and those who only wanted to escape the violence.
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The Little Known El Salvador Civil War – My Book Review

“No matter the good intentions of the participants, wars were never fought cleanly. Ideals are both noble and peaceful, but in their actual execute, wars are sordid and violent.”

Did you know a civil war occurred in the small country of El Salvador from 1980 to 1992? I came by my knowledge of this civil war while working on a historical research project. I had visited St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Prioress and other nuns had gone on a Pilgrimage Commemoration to El Salvador in 2011.  An archbishop had been assassinated and nuns were raped and murdered. Photos and first-hand accounts are how I came to know about the war from the Prioress. The nuns still consider that war as a war mainly against women.

Max L. Knight’s book, Tarnished Brass, vividly and succinctly explores the twelve-year El Salvador civil war in a fictional novella narrative woven around actual events. Max writes about this civil war from perspectives from both the U.S. military side, El Salvador citizens, and El Salvador military. The war story is encapsulated enough with the variety of character viewpoints that you get what the civil war did to its people during the war and the aftermath of that war. As a reader, you are also reminded about the Iran-Contra scandal surrounding Major Oliver North. Tarnished Brass also brilliantly alludes to the violence against women in select chapters that Max writes about regarding Diana, Nidia, and Maria.

You get the sense through Max’s writing that deep-down, El Salvador at its heart is a beautiful country. It is just torn apart by the corruptness and greed of those who either want power or are in power. Another harsh reality is that no matter how much money the U.S. sank into the small country it did not help El Salvador’s citizens but it helped El Salvador’s military.

Tarnished Brass packs a lot within a small volume that will give readers insights into this war, the political atmosphere, and the aftermath of this war. Now I understand more clearly the courage of the four nuns from Fort Smith to journey to El Salvador. Tarnished Brass is a good reminder that even the smallest of wars have their long-lasting impacts and should be remembered, written about, and most importantly read about to remind us of our collective history.

As a side note… Have you been to a country where armed guards stood outside the doors of buildings as you entered? I have and it was quite disconcerting at first. I soon realized that the guards were there for my and other’s protection. Tarnished Brass brought back intense memories towards the end of this book of my time in a small country. Now I understand in my naivety that there is more than one country that has armed security details at businesses to protect their citizens.

 

Max Knight was born in Panama and grew up in the Canal Zone and in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in English. A Distinguished Military Graduate, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army and served twenty-four years in the Air Defense Artillery retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In addition to assignments within his basic branch, Max also specialized as a Foreign Area Officer in both the European Theatre of Operations (Germany and Greece) and within USSOUTHCOM (Panama, Honduras, and El Salvador). He received the Defense Superior Service Medal for his service in El Salvador during that country’s civil war. Max earned his master’s degree in government from Campbell University, and retired from the Army in 1997.

Upon retirement Max was hired by RCI Technologies in San Antonio and became its Director of Internal Operations. He also was the first volunteer docent at the Alamo working within its Education Department. However, following the tragic events of 9/11, he became an Independent Contractor and spent the next ten years as a Counterintelligence Specialist in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Central America before cancer forced him to quit.

Max has since published a memoir, Silver Taps, and a novel of westward expansion, Palo Duro. He resides in San Antonio with his wife, Janet “Gray.” They have three surviving children; Lisa, Brian, and Sean, and three grandchildren; Tony, Nicholas, and Cecilia Marie.

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