WASHINGTON -- Due to the success of Sacred Duty, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., can add another line to his resume: New York Times best-selling author.
The book, Cotton's first, will debut at No. 8 on the paper's Sunday hardcover nonfiction list. It also appears on Publisher Weekly's latest hardcover nonfiction list at No. 10.
Subtitled A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery, it highlights the role of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the famous burial ground and elsewhere. In addition to guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and serving as escort to the president, members of the "Old Guard" also stand watch as fallen soldiers and veterans are laid to rest.
Last weekend, the lawmaker from Dardanelle had book signings in Little Rock and Bentonville. Next, Cotton heads to California to promote the book there, with stops planned at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley today and the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda on Wednesday.
Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran, spent 16 months as a platoon leader in between tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.
For writing the book, he received an advance of more than $500,000 from his publisher, William Morrow. With an initial printing of 150,000 copies, the book was released May 14.
The timing wasn't coincidental.
"We wanted to do either Memorial Day or Veterans Day. But Memorial Day is the biggest day at Arlington," he said.
Cotton's book begins with a funeral for a dozen service members who died Jan. 20, 2007, after their Black Hawk helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade near Baghdad.
Three of the four crew members who perished were members of the Arkansas National Guard's 77th Aviation Brigade -- Maj. Michael Vernon Taylor of North Little Rock, 1st Sgt. William Thomas Warren of North Little Rock and Sgt. 1st Class John G. Brown of Little Rock.
Although three fallen soldiers had been buried at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock, unidentified or commingled remains from the attack were laid to rest in a separate ceremony a few months later.
Cotton, who served as a flagbearer that day, Oct. 12, 2007, called it "the largest funeral procession I would ever see at Arlington."
The book finishes, nearly 300 pages later, with the state funeral of former President George Herbert Walker Bush.
The Old Guard assisted with both ceremonies. In both instances, nothing short of excellence was acceptable, according to Cotton.
"We approached every funeral with a single standard in mind: perfection," he wrote.
That means spotless uniforms. Perfectly polished shoes and weapons. Carefully choreographed movements and the ability to remain completely motionless for long periods of time.
A lot of politicians are published authors. Some of them employ ghostwriters. Cotton, who served on the Harvard Crimson editorial board as an undergraduate, says that's not an option he employed.
Asked how much of the writing he did himself, Cotton said, "For better or worse, pretty much all of it."
The work wasn't done at the Capitol, and government resources were not used on the project, he said.
"I would generally try to write when I could have uninterrupted time -- at night and on weekends," he said.
Frequently, that meant waiting until his sons Daniel (now age 2) and Gabriel (now age 4) had been tucked into bed.
The state's junior senator started his research on Sacred Duty in February 2018 and submitted the transcript in December, just hours after the death of the nation's 41st president.
After taking a short break to enjoy the holidays, Cotton returned to the task, completing his second version of the manuscript in January.
Once that was done, he was able to focus on other book-related matters: proofreading, photo selection and book jacket copy, he said.
The end result is a book with dozens of photos and a glowing review from former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Asked how he'd feel if the book gets panned, Cotton said he'd be able to handle it.
"Criticism doesn't faze me," he said.
Given the subject matter, however, he'd like to see Sacred Duty strike a chord with readers.
"I do hope that the book is well-received because I want the Old Guard story to be well-received," he said.
Thus far, much of the feedback has been positive.
During an interview with Cotton on CNN, Jake Tapper praised Sacred Duty, calling it "a lovely tribute" and "really a great read."
In an interview on Fox News, anchor Bret Baier said Cotton's book is "really an excellent read."
Initial sales have been strong. On the day of the book's release, President Donald Trump tweeted that it was "wonderful" and urged his followers to "make it big."
After learning that he'd made The New York Times best-seller list, Cotton said he was "humbled and honored that the stories of so many patriots has made Sacred Duty successful," adding, "It's a credit to the Old Guard and Arlington National Cemetery and their popularity. I am proud to have been able to tell their story."
While Cotton's book has received many positive reviews, comments he made while promoting the book have drawn criticism from Democrats.
Asked on CBS This Morning on May 13 about a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville study suggesting that Trump's tariffs could hurt farmers, Cotton said that Americans would have to sacrifice in the short term, but "that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas, that our fallen heroes who are laid to rest at Arlington make."
After the interview, the Democratic Party of Arkansas accused Cotton of "mocking farmers who are bearing the brunt" of the trade war.
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Print Headline: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's chronicle lands on book lists