The experiences of the soldiers we ship off to war are unique and difficult to relate to. War is brutal and the things soldiers see are not always things that are easy to discuss with civilians. Fortunately, there are many pieces of literature on the subject with the goal of trying to get people to understand these horrific experiences. Here are six books depicting war and the soldiers who fight them.
1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The story of war is intricate and complicated. On the macro level, war is sometimes about competing ideologies. But at the end of the day, most war stories are about the individuals who fight it and the horrors they bear. Tim O’Brien brings some of these stories to life with a collection of short stories based on his experiences in the Vietnam War. These stories bring to life the lives of the soldiers O’Brien encountered. Each of these stories convey the sense of horror and terror each man felt on the battlefield. Additionally, O’Brien also manages to show readers the relationships established by these soldiers during their time in Vietnam. These relationships enable the characters to get through the brutality of war, even as they are forced to watch and take part in that brutality.
2. Dispatches by Michael Herr
With Dispatches, journalist Michael Herr gives us one of the most graphic and chilling depictions of the Vietnam War. As a journalist in Vietnam, Herr saw firsthand the horrors that war wreaked upon both the US soldiers and people of Vietnam. Herr chronicles and relays these horrors to the reader in an attempt to describe the indescribable. While difficult, Herr ultimately paints a masterful picture of these horrors and terrors that have haunted the people who were party to them. We, who were not there, cannot possibly imagine the feeling of being on the front lines, the constant sense of terror and the trauma that comes with seeing things that cannot be unseen. But with writing as emotionally and visually vivid as Herr’s we come one step closer to understanding these feelings.
3. Redeployment by Phil Klay
War is both physically and mentally brutal for those who must partake in it. Yet, there are other sides to war that are simultaneously mundane and absurd. With Redeployment, Phil Klay seeks to bring these other elements to light. Klay’s collection of short stories focus on the lives of three different soldiers and their experiences within the war and its effects on other parts of their lives. These stories vary from a soldier trying to readjust to civilian life, to another who must teach Iraqi civilians to play baseball. While not quite the war stories we are used to, Klay is able to use these anecdotes to convey the experiences of soldiers in Iraq.
4. Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
Sometimes to understand the stress war puts on the individual soldier it is best to hear it from a soldier. Anthony Swofford gives us one such account, dealing with his own experiences in the Gulf War. Swofford recounts the boring aspects of war like rifle maintenance, to the more horrid things, like physical abuse. Jarhead is not meant to be an artistic or philosophical account on the meaning of war. Instead, Swofford wants this to be an in your face recounting of the various terrors soldiers face. Jarhead is a reminder that every time soldiers are shipped off, some are left behind in the fields of battle.
5. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
The Iraq War feels like a lifetime ago, but as David Finkel demonstrates in The Good Soldiers, for many, the scars still remain. Finkel takes us back to 2007 to George Bush’s announcement of a surge into Iraq. The purpose of the mission was to secure Baghdad, and by extension, Iraq. However, as time would soon show, the people in charge were not sure how to accomplish this. Finkel brings us the stories of the soldiers who carried out this strategy and their ordeal while on the front lines.
6. Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel
David Finkel follows up on the stories of the men he interviewed in Iraq with Thank You For Your Service. Finkel follows these soldiers as they fight their most brutal fight to date, the one on the homefront. With Thank You For Your Service, Finkel hopes to give readers an accurate portrayal of life after combat for soldiers. The book tackles the emotional trauma soldiers suffer from and the things they have to do to cope. We are exposed to the raw emotions of soldiers recently returned from combat and the crushing feeling of isolation these soldiers must come to grips with.
The lesson learned from these novels is rather simple: War is brutal, let’s try to avoid it when we can.
YouTube Channel: Dalton Bowlin
Featured image via CNN
h/t Crave Online