Before I said “Everyone should read this book.” I was only forty or so pages into it at that point. I am almost done, and now I have to say- Maybe not everyone.
It’s just so crushingly sad. I have talked to two of my trusted friends, guys that live out here in the country near me, guys that also happen to be combat vets. I was fully expecting them to tell me that they didn’t want to talk about it. In my mind, a guy (like me) with no combat experience from “back in the world” would have something like zero credibility. But, unexpectedly, these guys opened right up. The thing that I have realized is that, for soldiers that were in wars that weren’t in the papers, homecoming is kind of just another covert operation.
You can be “in the shit” (in danger (and in terror) of being killed, wounded or left behind) at 6:00pm on Monday, and by 2pm on Tuesday, you can be at the PX trying to decide if it’s going to be PBR or Rolling Rock. Guys that they have lost (friends, fellow soldiers) sometimes just disappear, and there isn’t time to mourn or process or deprogram. It’s 60 to zero with a brick wall abruptness.
Reading this book has really profoundly affected me. There are about thirty things that I want to address in this weblog about it, but the whole discussion deserves so much more than the flip, topical analysis that this kind of forum affords.
Siegfried Sassoon was a veteran of World War One, and he wrote several poems about his experiences there. I am repeatedly reminded of this one line from “Suicide in the Trenches” while reading this book:
“You smug-faced cowards with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray youÃll never know
The Hell where youth and laughter go.”