They are the military’s most elite force, a highly trained group of men serving the Air Force and National Guard with a mandate to fly behind enemy lines during war and rescue downed pilots. They are pararescue jumpers, or PJs for short, the most radically fit, mentally tough men in the armed forces. During peacetime, PJs keep their skills sharp with daring civilian rescues, recovering victims from scorching deserts, treacherous mountaintops, or raging seas. Most people learned of the PJs in The Perfect Storm, with its riveting account of how a helicopter of PJs from a squadron on Long Island plunged into the Atlantic during a rescue.
Senior Master Sergeant Jack Brehm was the PJ supervisor that night and coordinated the dramatic rescue efforts. Life-and-death situations are all in a day’s work for the PJs, who are always on call, ready to put their own lives on the line so “that others may live.” In an age seemingly devoid of heroes, these men are the real deal, a close-knit unit bound together by bravery and guts, selflessness and sacrifice, and the intense desire to both serve their country and live life on the edge.
That Others May Live is the thrilling story of Jack Brehm and his love affair with two things: the PJ way of life, and his wife, Peggy, the mother of his five children. In 1977, twenty-year-old Jack, an aimless kid from Long Island, made a decision that would alter the course of his life—he decided to become a PJ. He entered “Superman School,” the indoctrination program where PJs are made. It is the toughest program in the military, moredifficult than what the Navy SEALs or Army Special Ops go through. No one flunks out—it just gets harder and harder until most guys eliminate themselves. In other programs candidates might say, “They can beat me, but they can’t kill me.” In Superman School, the candidates say, “They can kill me, but they can’t eat me.”
Jack Brehm was transformed from a kid without a clue into a man with a purpose. He and nine other men graduated in the class of ’78-03—they had the right stuff. More than eighty others in their class didn’t. That Others May Live is a vivid, compelling account of Jack’s twenty years as a PJ. We see him and his fellow PJs climb mountains and battle storms to save lives, struggle with their emotions as PJ friends die, wait anxiously to hear if they are called to war in a place such as Kosovo or the Persian Gulf, and try to keep their families together despite the enormous pressure of the job. Jack is luckier than most PJs, for he has Peggy and his five kids. In the end, it becomes clear who the real hero is in Jack’s life: his rock-solid wife. Jack may wear the parachute, but Peggy wears the pants.
By: Jack Brehm and Pete Nelson
Published: 2000, Crown Publishers
Hardcover, 287 pages