January 7, 2014

Reading "Thank You for Your Service"

This book is an incredible portrait of people trying to keep going after experiencing the trauma of war that scared them in ways that are not easily seen.  The heroes of this book are not the ones you can see that they sacrificed limb or life for.  They have more subtle disabilities that you can’t see, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

Earlier wars called it shell shock or battle fatigue, but we have better understandings of what is happening to soldier’s brains, even if the treatments are not easy to bring to all who need them.  We haven’t gotten to everyone, and that is one of the great tragedies of the book, which hints at the shifting focus of leadership in the military.  We may never treat all who need it, in part to the continuing stigma of mental issues.  I have to admit, while I was reading the book I had one of those macho fantasies where I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t have an issue with my brain.  I was too tough. Reading about the men who faced war for multiple tours and the horrors that have to be impossible to convey a tiny fraction of reality through print media made me realize I wasn’t too tough.  Saying “Thank you for your service” is both a genuine sentiment – I am glad it wasn’t me, but also hollow because we can never understand what we are thanking them for.