Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime
By: Ben Blum
Alex Blum was a good kid with one goal in life: become a U.S. Army Ranger. Then, on the day before deployment to Iraq, Alex got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma, and committed armed robbery. The question that haunted the entire Blum family was, Why? Why would Alex ruin his life in such a spectacularly foolish way?
The book follows Ben Blum’s investigation into his cousin, Alex Blum, and his participation in a bank robbery. This story was especially unique as it was written by a family member and provides detail accounts of how Alex’s family reacted to news of the robbery. As a family member Ben was granted access to details that would not be shared to outsiders. Finally, I believe that the personal connection between Ben and Alex had pushed Ben to thoroughly understand Alex’s story, resulting in some profound conclusions.
The first revelation came in the form of a written introspection from Alex himself. Alex had explained that his dream was to serve and protect his country as an army ranger. During his training leading up to ranger qualifications, he was desensitized to making judgement calls and trained to follow orders. His accounts of ranger conditioning was gruesome It was described as a process of brainwashing the youth and transforming them into soldiers. Alex attributed this process as the reason for his participation in the bank robbery. He was following the orders of a superior officer, one Corporal Sommer. Alex had claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the event and he was simply brainwashed.
The second revelation came in the form of concluding that obtaining the full truth of the bank robbery is impossible. The best Ben could do was provide as much information he can find to tell the story in an unbiased manner.
Finally, I’d like to end off with a quote that held most dearly to me in the last chapter of the book.
“How do you grow up?” he (Alex) asked. “How the fuck do you grow up? Did you take a class in college on growing up? Did I take on in prison? This is it. This is how you grow up. I think we’re better off than the ninety-eight percent of people who never have to go through something like this and learn what growing up means.”
In this case growing up is a process of self-reflection and regret. A moment of self-realization that it should have been done another way. Growing up is to take this experience and turn it into a lesson that become engrained. I think this is the most important message from this book. Even though Alex had a lapse of judgement, he was able to ‘grow up’ and learn from his mistakes.