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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive and sensitive account of a soldiers lot, 28 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Jarhead: A Solder's Story of Modern War: A Soldier's Story of Modern War (Paperback)
Jarhead is the remarkably eloquent account of Swoffords time with the Marines in the run up to and during the first Gulf War. It also gives an insight into the mind of a soldier, both the process that led to him becoming a fighting man and the machinations of his mind as he trains for and then fights the war. Mostly though it gives a believable and authoritive voice to the chorus that says even though some wars are unavoidable, nothing will erase their waste and that as long as men are divided by race, creed, money, territory, religion, borders and envy they will continue to fight.
Swofford was a 19 year old sniper when he went to the Gulf. He spent months training and fighting ennui and boredom before the war started. He relays this with a precise eye, as any sniper would I suppose, and is both annoyed by and deeply affectionate towards his colleagues, many of whom come across as slightly deranged. There is much anxiety about relationships, both familial and amourous. He explains how his fathers military service made him feel compelled to join the military himself, to as he puts it" Prove both my manhood and the masculinity of the line".
Swofford has had a difficult family life. His brother died young, his sister was institutionalised after numerous suicide attempts, his father returned from Vietnam a harsh disciplinarian and eventually his parents divorced. There is a lot of pain in this book but no self pity.
The account of the actual fighting is surprisingly short but then so was the war. In fact it was hardly a war at all but a protracted massacre. Swoffords account of a friendly fire incident proves that despite their training and colossal military might you can't beat the Americans for A grade cock ups.
Swofford didn't actually kill anyone during the Gulf war and for that he is glad. He makes the occasional scathing comment about the politics behind the war but mostly he is just concerned with the effect it had on those around him, the enemy and of course himself. If this book is anything to go by he came out of it very well for this is a riveting and at times poetic memoir of the madness that was Desert Storm.
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