Bumper Sticker #11

If you want to get some feeling for what it’s like to fight in the wars we send our troops to fight today, I can think of no book that takes you there better than Sebastian Junger’s War. He talked about the book and his experience embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in a TED talk that’s posted on YouTube.

The part that hit me hardest was when he explained how fighting in war teaches soldiers about love. Not so much love for the world, or their nation, or even their families back home. Junger describes how being sent into battle and kept there for an extended period of time creates a bond between soldiers that is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. It’s a bond so tight that wounded soldiers in WWII actually escaped from the hospital to  return to their units at the front. It’s based on the trust soldiers develop in each other, a trust they don’t find when they return home to civilian life. In fact, according to Junger, returning home and trying to live among people they aren’t sure will look out for them the way their combat colleagues will is, for some of them, “terrifying.” Junger says they don’t miss killing people when they go home. He says, “They don’t miss almost getting killed…what they miss is brotherhood.” Junger says some of the soldiers realize what’s happening to them while they’re still on the battlefield. As he puts it, “They worry that they may have been ruined for anything else.” It appears many of them have. What a strange gift to be given by your country.

Hence, Bumper Sticker #11:

WHENEVER WE PREPARE MINDS FOR WAR WE UNPREPARE THEM FOR LIFE. –Michael N. Nagler

You don’t believe me, go ask Sebastian Junger.

Pace.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Laurie · June 28

    I have so often thought this same thing – that soldiers don’t fight for their countries or their families, but for the safety and “brotherhood” of those other soldiers they are fighting with. When I was working at the Cole Museum I helped compile a book about veterans. One former soldier from WW II brought in his scrapbooks and talked to me about his time in service in Europe. He was the lone survivor of three or four groups he fought with – when he was able, he was simply shipped out to another unit and then he’d survive everyone in that unit too. He had such survivor guilt that he was never quite able to manage in the world again. Beyond PTSD, it’s clear to me that this love he had for his fellow soldiers, even the ones he fought with for short periods of time, and the grief he must have felt when they were all killed was unbearable.

    Thanks for your blog Mark. Always enjoy though this is the first time I’ve commented.

    Like

    • Mark Kelley · June 28

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, Laurie. I hope people will take time to read them. It’s good to have you part of this conversation. Best, MK

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s