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.