Junger is a New York Times reporter and author who was embedded with US troops in a remote valley in Afghanistan in 2007-2008. This book and a documentary film, “Restrepo” were the result of his experience. I was engrossed in the book and couldn’t put it down, while between swims in the ocean and pool with the kids while on holiday last week.
The book gives some detailed descriptions of battle in this dangerous valley near the Pakistan border. I enjoyed following these, but more importantly for me, I really understood the mentality of troops on the front line. I forgot how young these guys are and so many of them come from rough backgrounds, where the army is a better way of life than they would have in civilian life. I can’t imagine being 19 and in a situation like these guys are put through. I was so immature at that time in my life. The two biggest take-aways were the thrill of combat and the strong bonds formed between soldiers. It is the only friendship a person will have whose life depends on the relationship. When going through experiences like that, I can see why they never have relationships like that again in their civilian lives.
I also got a sense of what it is like to be on the opposing side. They must be in fear of the US military strength, with the Apache helicopters, drones, and invisible bomb strikes. It sure is an expensive war the US is fighting over there. It is also interesting that this is the front line on the “war on terror” and how few people are really involved. The vast majority of Americans are not in the military and those that are, most do not see combat.
It also concerns me for returning veterans and the medical treatment they will receive, both physical and psychological. It will be difficult for many to readjust to everyday life in the US, post-military.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but will have to check it out. I highly recommend this book.