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Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

Review

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

This is the true story of one horrible event and a subsequent web of lies. It’s about believing in something bigger than the fact that one person and his grandiose ideas can indeed throw generations of lives off course. In Ben Blum’s RANGER GAMES, a military mentality coupled with having a narcissist for a superior is a recipe for a disaster that no one would’ve ever suspected from the nicest person they’d ever known, Alex Blum.

Alex Blum, the author’s cousin, trained his entire life to be an Army Ranger. He was a model civilian, standing up to bullies, even molding his body to endure harsh physical realities. According to Alex, being a Ranger was the pinnacle of all dreams and the best possible position to hold in the military. Missing a syllable in the Ranger Creed would have him questioning his worth as a human being. Alex abided by every rule. He was the star boyfriend and athlete. He’d spend hours in his high school library reading up on being an Army Ranger. He watched all the movies and played the video games. However, he didn’t prepare himself for the brainwashing that would occur. The main question in this book remains: Would a kid who had dedicated his entire life to serving America’s people put those very same civilians in jeopardy by robbing a bank?

"This is the true story of one horrible event and a subsequent web of lies. It’s about believing in something bigger than the fact that one person and his grandiose ideas can indeed throw generations of lives off course."

In 2005, Alex began the Ranger Indoctrination Program in Fort Benning, Georgia. It’s here where the harsh reality of what it takes to become an Army Ranger begins to set in. Alex resorts to squirting tobasco sauce in his eyes to stay awake during drills. In one terrifying scene, his cohort is told by a superior to eat an unmanageable amount of ice cream sandwiches as punishment. Knowing it’s a trick --- this time --- the young man says no. His superior uses the Rangers in training as bait, “smoking” them, which means instructing them to do pushups for as long as he deems necessary. The young man caves and eats the ice cream, only for everyone to be punished regardless, because ice cream isn’t allowed and he should know that.

In 2006, things got worse. Alex met Luke Elliot Sommer at the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Washington. Alex, and even his father, admired Sommer. Yet I doubt he knew the twisted tricks this man was playing and the power trip he was on.

RANGER GAMES takes the saying When they ask you to jump, you say how high to a dangerous level. When Sommer throws Alex a gun and says, “Suicide check,” the young man asks what that is. Alex then accepts the risk of having his head blown off to prove that he is trusting of his superior’s orders. This, by the way, is no ordinary practice in ranger training, and one of the first signs that something is amok when it comes to Sommer. His words are rapid-fire. He’s intelligent to a fault, with so many ideas your head will spin.

Throughout the book, Alex says he believed the bank robbery was a training exercise. While driving the getaway car, Sommer and others, carting A47s, exit Alex’s Audi to fulfill their plan. That’s when Alex spots a terrified woman, and it dawns on him that this is indeed a real robbery --- not some training exercise, not another one of Sommer’s grand ideas, but one of those ideas put into action. And it doesn’t help that Alex may have helped design the plan.

Alex’s father and cousin Ben dedicate their lives to securing Alex’s freedom. They spread the truth of what they know about the events that occurred on that fateful day. Alex’s father practically spends his entire life savings to assist his son in any way he can: by securing the best possible lawyers, and even getting the famous psychologist, Dr. Zimbardo, to state that this was one of those cases where a good person was influenced by a bad situation, drawing comparisons to the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. After months of being in prison, Alex continued to ask lawyers and his family to call his superiors because they must be aware that the robbery was staged by the military. Only after reading the book BRAINWASHING did the fact that he wasn’t returning to the military set in for him.

Through the ups and downs of the book, Ben Blum attempts to find out the truth about the bank robbery by closely communicating with Sommer, his family, his girlfriend and others near to him. It’s learned that Sommer has rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, and that a history of enabling a child leads to nothing good, in all cases depicted in this story. Ben discovers other truths that will finally heal his family as well, if only he can get through to Alex. Maybe admitting your mistakes won’t imprison you, but actually will set you free.

Reviewed by Bianca Ambrosio on September 29, 2017

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime
by Ben Blum

  • Publication Date: September 12, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, True Crime
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 038553843X
  • ISBN-13: 9780385538435