I am reading for review Ray McPadden’s We March at Midnight (Black Stone Publishing, 2021), and a few weeks ago I published my review of Conquering Jerusalem by Stephen Dando-Collins (Turner Publishing Company, 2021). Both of the organizations I review for know that I specialize in books about war and especially those about Vietnam where I spent the better part of thirteen years. Meanwhile, the newspapers are full of stories about twin bombings carried out by ISIS in Kabul that killed thirteen U.S. troops and at least 170 others with more than 155 injured.
In sum: no matter where I look, I can’t escape the echoes of war.
Much of my life before I retired from the U.S. government was spent on the battlefield. Although I was a civilian, I operated under cover as an enlisted member of the military unit I was supporting. My job was using the intercept of enemy radio communications to alert friendly forces to the presence, activities, and intent of enemy units. I was in combat regularly, especially during the Vietnam war. I witnessed countless times men killed on the battlefield. The grisliness of their deaths wounded my soul. I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and always will.
I’m not as good as I once was at shrugging off the gruesomeness of war. The more I age, the more my memories unsettle me. These days, I’m finding stories of the brutality of war deeply disturbing. They arouse my remembrances with fresh vigor and make me recall details I had forgotten.
So I have to ask: how can the human race tolerate war? Why can’t we find ways to end wars once and for all? I think the answer to my question is that as long as groups like the Taliban, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda thrive, wars will continue. Just this morning, the Washington Post is reporting that the U.S. military carried out a drone strike on ISIS in Afghanistan. We have no choice but to take up arms against people who would destroy us.
So people like me who suffer the psychic scars of war will have to man up and learn to live with both our own wounds and the stories of combat ruthlessness. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work for peace. That is our calling.