Library Blog

These Came Home: A Veterans' Day Miscellany

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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Last Memorial Day, I took a glance at books about some of the memorialized whose stories have not always been told in mainstream histories. As Veterans’ Day approaches, it occurs to me that I am – quite wrongly – mired in mid-twentieth-century history when I think about living veterans – as if surely they were all the boys on the beach at Normandy, not people my own age or younger. As a corrective, I paged through a few of our many narratives by veterans of the wars in Iraq (2003 and since) and Afghanistan (2001 and since). However we feel about the wars and the policies, understanding their veterans’ experiences is surely appropriate to the day.


Many Voices

Trish Wood | What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War By the Soldiers Who Fought It 
In this modern-day successor to the Vietnam classic Everything We Had, award-winning investigative reporter Trish Wood offers a gritty, authentic, and uncensored history of the war in Iraq, as told by the American soldiers who are fighting it.

Andrew Carroll, ed. | Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of US Troops and Their Families
The first book of its kind, Operation Homecoming is the result of a major initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts to bring distinguished writers to military bases and inspire U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen and their families to record their wartime experiences.

Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow, eds. | It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan
This inspiring anthology is the first to convey the rich experiences and contributions of women in the American military in their own words - from the Revolutionary War to the present wars in the Middle East.

One Soldier’s Story

Nathaniel Fick | One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
If the Marines are “the few, the proud,” Recon Marines are the fewest and the proudest. Fick unveils the process that makes Marine officers such legendary leaders and shares his hard-won insights into the differences between military ideals and military practice, which can mock those ideals.

Jeremiah Workman | Shadow of the Sword: A Marine's Journey of War, Heroism, and Redemption
Awarded the Navy Cross for gallantry under fire, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Workman is one of the Marine Corps’ best-known contemporary combat veterans. In this searing and inspiring memoir, he tells an unforgettable story of his service overseas – and of the emotional wars that continue to rage long after our fighting men come home.

Benjamin Busch | Dust to Dust: A Memoir
Tim O’Brien meets Annie Dillard in this remarkable memoir by debut author Benjamin Busch. Much more than a war memoir, Dust to Dust brilliantly explores the passage through a lifetime - a moving meditation on life and death, the adventures of childhood and revelations of adulthood.

Chris Kyle | American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. Kyle, who was tragically killed in 2013, writes honestly about the pain of war - including the deaths of two close SEAL teammates - and in moving first-person passages throughout, his wife, Taya, speaks openly about the strains of war on their family, as well as on Chris. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

Brian Turner | My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir
An award-winning poet and former infantry team leader in Iraq, Brian Turner combines his devastating recollections as “Sergeant Turner” with his visions of the experiences of generations of warriors in his family - and even those of the enemy - in a work of profound understanding and shocking beauty.

Eric Fair | Consequence: A Memoir
Consequence is the story of Eric Fair, a kid who grew up in the shadows of crumbling Bethlehem Steel plants nurturing a strong faith and a belief that he was called to serve his country. It is a story of a man who chases his own demons from Egypt, where he served as an Army translator, to a detention center in Iraq, to seminary at Princeton, and eventually, to a heart transplant ward at the University of Pennsylvania.

Matt Young | Eat the Apple: A Memoir
Eat the Apple is a daring, twisted, and darkly hilarious story of American youth and masculinity in an age of continuous war. Searing in its honesty, tender in its vulnerability, and brilliantly written, Eat the Apple is a modern war classic in the making and a powerful coming-of-age story that maps the insane geography of our times.

Those Who Served Those Who Served

Thomas A. Middleton | Saber's Edge: A Combat Medic in Ramadi, Iraq
The National Guardsman, the citizen soldier called upon to fight for this nation in a time of war, is one of the least understood - and perhaps one of the most compelling - figures of the Iraq War. In a few short weeks Thomas A. Middleton went from being a suburban dad to a combat medic traveling between platoons, filling in for other medics and engaging in some of the fiercest and most crucial fighting of the war.

Roger Benimoff | Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain's Memoir
Intimate and powerful, drawing on Benimoff’s and his wife’s journals, Faith Under Fire chronicles a spiritual struggle through war, loss, and the hard process of learning to believe again.

Colonel Susan Luz | The Nightingale of Mosul: A Nurse's Journey of Service, Struggle, and War
The true story of a female soldier in Iraq who was awarded the Bronze Star - not for fighting, but for fighting to care.

Dave Hnida | Paradise General: Rising the Surge at a Combat Hospital in Iraq
In 2004, at the age of forty-eight, Dr. Dave Hnida, a family physician from Littleton, Colorado, volunteered to be deployed to Iraq and spent a tour of duty as a battalion surgeon with a combat unit. In 2007, he went back - this time as a trauma chief at one of the busiest Combat Support Hospitals during the surge. In a conflict with no easy answers and even less good news, Paradise General gives us something that we can all believe in - the story of an ordinary citizen turned volunteer soldier trying to make a difference.

True Grittiness

John Crawford | The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq
John Crawford joined the Florida National Guard to pay for his college tuition. But one semester short of graduating and newly married, he was called to active duty and sent to the front lines in Iraq. During the breaks between patrols, Crawford began recording what he and his fellow soldiers witnessed and experienced. Those stories became The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell - a haunting and powerful, compellingly honest book that imparts the on-the-ground reality of waging the war in Iraq, and marks as the introduction of a mighty literary voice forged in the most intense of circumstances.

Jason Christopher Hartley | Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq
At age 17, Jason Christopher Hartley joined the Army National Guard. Thirteen years later, he was called to active duty, to serve in Iraq. Sent to a town called Ad Dujayl, made notorious by Saddam Hussein's 1982 massacre, Hartley is thrust into the center of America's war against terrorism. This is his story.

Colby Buzzell | My War: Killing Time in Iraq
Recounts the personal experiences of a U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq as a member of the controversial Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a tour of duty during which he engaged in dangerous firefights and raids and kept an online log describing his war experiences.

Marcus Luttrell | Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing at the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history.

Donovan Campbell | Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
After graduating from Princeton, Donovan Campbell wanted to give back to his country, engage in the world, and learn to lead. So he joined the service, becoming a commander of a forty-man infantry platoon called Joker One. Campbell had just months to train and transform a ragtag group of brand-new Marines into a first-rate cohesive fighting unit, men who would become his family. They were assigned to Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province that was an explosion just waiting to happen.

Matt Gallagher | Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War
Based on Captain Matt Gallagher's controversial and popular blog, which the U.S. Army shut down in June 2008, Kaboom is a sardonic, unnerving, one-of-a-kind Iraq war memoir. "At turns hilarious, maddening and terrifying," providing "raw and insightful snapshots of conflict" (The Washington Post), Kaboom resonates with stoical detachment from and timeless insight into a war that we are still trying to understand.

Dakota Meyer | Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
In the fall of 2009, Taliban insurgents ambushed a patrol of Afghan soldiers and Marine advisors in a mountain village called Ganjigal. Firing from entrenched positions, the enemy was positioned to wipe out one hundred men who were pinned down and were repeatedly refused artillery support. Ordered to remain behind with the vehicles, twenty-one year-old Marine corporal Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders and attacked to rescue his comrades.

Home and What Came After

Tyler E. Boudreau | Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine
Packing Inferno is the spectacularly written story of the ordeal of a marine officer in battle and then coming home. It is the struggle with a society resistant to understand the true nature of war. It is the fight with combat stress and an exploration into the process of recovery. It is the search for conscience, family, and ultimately for one's essential self. Here are the reflections of a man built by the Marine Corps, disassembled by war, and left with no guidance to rebuild himself.

Darrell Griffin Sr. and Darrell “Skip” Griffin Jr. | Last Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime
A tribute to the “great conversation” between a father and his son, an Iraq staff sergeant who died in combat. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with Valor for dragging a comrade to safety through enemy gunfire. He was also in the middle of writing a book, an attempt to describe and make sense of the destruction he had seen in Iraq. In the face of Skip’s death, Darrell, Sr. vowed to finish the book himself. Last Journey is a first-hand account of everyday life for soldiers in Iraq; it’s also an intimate portrait of a lost son, a meditation on faith, and finally a tribute to the lively philosophical debates the Griffins used to share.

Brian Castner | The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
Brian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them in Iraq as the head of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. This thrilling, heartbreaking, stunningly honest book alternates between two harrowing realities: the terror, excitement, and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the unshakeable fear, anxiety, and survivor guilt that he - like so many veterans - carries inside.

David E. Finkel | The Good Soldiers and Thank You for Your Service
These are journalistic, not personal, narratives, but they are essential reading. No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, his bestselling account from the front lines of Baghdad, Finkel embedded with the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion as they carried out the infamous “surge.” Then, in Thank You for Your Service, Finkel tells the true story of those men as they return home from the front-lines of Baghdad and struggle to reintegrate - both into their family lives and into American society at large. 


Unexpected Stories

Matthew Bogdanos | Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine's Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World's Greatest Stolen Treasures
When Baghdad fell, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos was in southern Iraq, tracking down terrorist networks through their financing and weapons smuggling - until he heard about the looting of the museum. Immediately setting out across the desert with an elite group chosen from his multiagency task force, he risked his career and his life in pursuit of Iraq's most priceless treasures.

Joshua Key | The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq
In the first-ever memoir from a young soldier who deserted from the war in Iraq, Joshua Key offers a vivid and damning indictment of what we are doing there and how the war itself is being waged.


Told In a Different Way

Phil Klay | Redeployment
The winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and of the John Leonard First Book Prize, and selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, Amazon, and more, Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned.

Elliot Ackerman | Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning
Elliot Ackerman is both a former White House Fellow and Marine, and he served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He then became the author of several highly acclaimed novels. This nonfiction volume is his new book, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Also see Ackerman’s Green on Blue, a “compassionate, provocative, and alive” ( debut war story about a young Afghan orphan; Dark at the Crossinga National Book Award finalist about a wayward Arab American among Syrian revolutionaries and refugees, also declared one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, Military Times, Vogue, and Bloomberg; and Waiting for Eden, a breathtakingly spare and shattering novel that explores the unseen aftereffects - and unacknowledged casualties - of war, a piercingly insightful, deeply felt meditation on loyalty, friendship, betrayal, and love. Watch our Dark at the Crossing event with Mr. Ackerman and writer Roxana Robinson here.

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