Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Book review – The War Comes Home
Book jacket courtesy University of California Press.
Aaron Glantz’s new book, The War Comes Home, will shock many people who think American war veterans are highly valued members of society and are well looked after.
In fact, life is a struggle for many veterans, according to Mr. Glantz, a freelance American journalist who spent three years reporting from Iraq.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have left an indelible mark on many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Glantz quotes a 2008 RAND Corporation study that found 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffered from PTSD or major depression and another 320,000 suffered from TBI.
In other words, there are many walking wounded veterans on the streets of America.
The genesis for this book came from his experience talking with veterans while promoting his previous book – How America Lost Iraq.
Mr. Glantz heard from many Iraq veterans about their experiences – not only in combat – but also the problems they faced when they returned to the U.S. and tried to collect benefits from the government.
Mr. Glantz’s interviews detail the frustrations many veterans experience when trying to adjust back to a civilian life. Many have trouble finding suitable employment. Others say they cannot afford to get more a advanced education.
Many have trouble maintaining their relationships. Indeed, the divorce rate amongst military personnel has spiked substantially since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started.
In 2004, 7,152 U.S. enlisted soldiers got divorced – a 53 per cent increase over the number who got divorced pre-9/11.
Sadly, many veterans fall through the cracks and are unable to find their way in modern day America.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 200,000 veterans sleep on the streets of America on any given night and 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year.
It is not all grim, though. There are many heroes in this book who will inspire the reader. One veteran – Will Beiersdorf, a U.S. Navy reservist, and his wife Mary Beth, started their own NGO – Salute Inc., which provides financial support and direct assistance to service members and veterans.
They started the NGO after having to endure the financial hardships caused by Mr. Beiersdorf’s 13-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Prior to being called up, he worked in the private sector in Chicago earning about $100,000 annually. As a reservist, he only received $25,000 per year. Fortunately, family, friends and neighbours turned out in droves and provided additional support for the Beiersdorf’s and their three children.
Salute Inc. now raises funds to support other veterans in need.
The War Comes Home clearly illustrates why it is not enough to put a We Support Our Troops bumper sticker on your car. Talk is cheap – getting a soldier back on his feet is not.
To read an article about one Canadian soldier’s battle with PTSD, please click here.