Veteran's Day- November 11th
To all our War Veterans: with tremendous appreciation and pride, a heartfelt Thank You for your bravery and steely character not just on the battlefield, but in resuming Life after it.
There are two ways to tell the story. Funny or sad. Guys like it funny, with lots of gore and a grin on your face when you get to the end. Girls like it sad, with a thousand-yard stare out to the distance as you gaze upon the horrors of war they can't quite see.
- Phil Klay: Redeployment
The Iraq conflict is clearly emerging as the war narrative of our country. With its highly sophisticated and damaging weaponry, our veterans are left with the intense stories of the ill-gotten, complex myriad of physically and psychologically devastating injuries. Redeployment is a raw, gut wrenching, dis-embowelling short story collection focused on the Marine's tour in Fallujah: a window through which to view the Iraq experience from the most important perspective - through the eyes of those who served there.
These vivid portraits detail palpitating combat action in the call of duty, undeniable courage and loyalty to one's fellow soldier; intense stories of the war hero, who is sometimes the antihero; his disenchantment from the glorified myth: that the 'American soldier went to war and came back all the stronger for the experience'; the dehumanization effect of war indelibly sketched between the lines; the devastating battle wounds and deep psychological scars; the shattering impact and permanent damage to both soldiers' and civilians' lives; stories that end in the silent question of the soldier's intact morality and wholesome future.
In the streets: firefights, sniper attacks, gore and guts, gas-bloated dead hajji in the sun, unseeing eyes bulging toward the sky. It could have been you but he got fucked.
Insurgent hiding in the stinking pool of liquid shit, waiting to fire on you as you turn your back. You saw him first, so he got fucked.
Little Iraqi faces peering out a window, the mother screaming in horror, the fourteen year old kid obliterated by your rifle fire. Never-mind he was holding an AK, it was either him or you, and he got fucked.
You did what you had to do to survive; maybe injured civilians in the process. Bombs, missiles, IED's, bone shattering rounds, torture, scattered limbs, seared flesh. You survived, but you still got fucked.
Home now. No sleep. When it fitfully comes, you return to the battlefield in dreams and odd memories. "When I thought back on it, there were the memories I had, and the stories I told, and they sort of sat together in my mind, the stories becoming stronger every time I retold them, feeling more and more true." Wounds too deep, so much pain, it hurts too much. "A human being in enough pain is just a screaming animal."
No one comes home from the war unchanged.
On coming home, did our governmental institution expect it to be a calm and easy transition into the 'after' life for you? You're now an unemployed or unemployable war vet; have they nonchalantly condemned you to subsist on the inevitable artificial life support of Disability or the stuporous numbness of perpetual inadequate medical management?
Phil Klay noticeably avoids taking political positions that would have interfered with his true purpose - the human experience of the war itself. Quite frankly, too many troops did not fully grasp why they were even there. Klay contrasts the gravity of this war of ambiguous missions, with the injection of some levity, for example: revealing the farcical projects like building irrelevant, flawed infrastructure; or the circumlocution in providing medical care and jobs for Iraqi women still in an oppressed society based on their religion. Klay's writing is powerful and compelling, most of all, realistic.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Redeployment might probably become a modern war classic. In any event, it has my vote.