My partner teaches college students about the intersection of ethics with service in the community. Every once in awhile she has newly discharged vets in her class; they often discuss war (she has experience of one). One Iraq vet with whom she developed a friendship urged her to understand:
"If anyone comes back from Iraq or Afghanistan and tells you they are undamaged, don't believe them."
I think Karl Marlantes would agree.
If you are a US combat veteran, or you love one, or you worry about what war after war is doing to the people who fight those wars and to the ethos of your country, you should read Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like to Go to War. Yes, that is as unequivocal a recommendation as I ever make. The book has flaws -- one of them personally upsetting to me -- but this is one of the most clearly-argued, heart-felt, intelligent volumes I've ever read. Marlantes is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps combat vet who brings to his subject the agonizing of a lifetime. Although the Marine Corps proudly let him take up a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford in 1968 instead of calling him up after he completed the college education they had paid for, he volunteered to join his peers in the jungle. He came back with a chest full of medals, little sense of accomplishment, and a lot of anger. Soon thereafter, he remembers being spat upon by a civilian woman when traveling in uniform on a stateside passenger train. (He says such incidents, which have iconic status for the US right, were actually quite rare.) Though he apparently successfully resumed civilian life for a couple of decades, he eventually blew up and was diagnosed with PTSD. This book is his prescription for what recovery might mean for damaged soldiers. Our wars go on, yet they are remote for most of us. We need to be reminded of some truths about sending soldiers to fight: