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Thank You For Your Service (The Cost of War) Hardcover – 14 Nov 2013
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In this incredibly moving sequel, Finkel reconnects with some of the men of the 2-16 now home on American soil and brings their struggles powerfully to life . . . Told in crisp, unsentimental prose and supplemented with excerpts from soldiers diaries, medical reports, e-mails, and text messages, their stories give new meaning to the costs of service and to giving thanks. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The author gives a clear-eyed, frightening portrayal of precisely what it is like to suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and what it is like to have the specter of suicide whispering into your ear every day. --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
I'm urging everyone I know to give Thank You for Your Service just a few pages, a few minutes out of their busy lives. The families honoured in this urgent, important book will take it from there. --Katherine Boo, National Book Award winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers
'More than two million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. In this harrowing book, Finkel looks at what happens to those soldiers, and their families, when they return home ... Heartbreaking'(Herald Sun)
'In a series of interconnected stories, Finkel follows a handful of soldiers and their spouses through the painful, sometimes-fatal process of reintegration into American society. The author gives a clear-eyed, frightening portrayal of precisely what it is like to suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and what it is like to have the specter of suicide whispering into your ear every day.'(Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
'[A] heartbreaking book ... The stories of the soldiers and their families portrayed in Thank You for Your Service possess a visceral and deeply affecting power ... that will haunt readers long after they have finished this book.'(Michiko Kakutani New York Times)
'In this incredibly moving sequel, Finkel reconnects with some of the men of the 2-16 ― now home on American soil ― and brings their struggles powerfully to life . . . Told in crisp, unsentimental prose and supplemented with excerpts from soldiers’ diaries, medical reports, e-mails, and text messages, their stories give new meaning to the costs of service ― and to giving thanks.'(Publishers Weekly (starred review))
'Thank You for Your Service is an almost unbearably sad book. It is also one I would urge you to read, to begin to appreciate the appalling toll war takes on troops ... Finkel is an extraordinarily compassionate writer.'(Matthew Ricketson The Weekend Australian)
Every politician must read this book before sending their country’s soldiers into battle.
Dear soldier, before going to war, read this book.
To understand the damage done by war, read this.(Barry Heard)
'I’m urging everyone I know to give Thank You for Your Service just a few pages, a few minutes out of their busy lives. The families honoured in this urgent, important book will take it from there.'(Katherine Boo, National Book Award–winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers)
'Thank You for Your Service is one of the best and truest books I have ever read. David Finkel cuts through all the spin, the excuses, the blowhard politics and mind-deadening metrics to discover the cost of war for the soldiers who fight it and the families they come home to. This extraordinary book will piss you off and break your heart. It will shame you and lift you up. It will bend your mind to the reality of an American war that is now well into its second decade.'(Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and finalist for the National Book Award)
'A vivid, fly-on-the-wall account of American soldiers, returned from Iraq, as they and their families struggle to cope with the after-effects of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.'(Lia Mills Irish Times 'Books of the Year 2014')
‘Harrowing … heartbreaking … an antidote to the reductive and sentimentalised notions of the heroic that grew up, especially, in the post-9/11 environment.’(The Irish Times)
‘A stunningly intimate portrayal of young veterans and their families haunted by a soul-corroding legacy of combat.’(Literary Review)
‘Remarkable reporting … An essential history for anyone judging the cost of drawn-out conflicts or the long-term sacrifices of those who serve in them … Masterfully done.’(FT)
‘Harrowing’(Geoff Dyer The Guardian)
‘David Finkel tells with novelistic immediacy the stories of some of the soldiers he met when embedded in eastern Baghdad with a US infantry battalion in 2007-8 … Moving.’(The Telegraph)
‘A remarkable feat of reporting’(Sunday Times) See all Product description
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Finkel provides the important context for his sequel. He says that two million American soldiers have served in either Afghanistan or Iraq. He claims that 20-30% of the soldiers who deployed to these theaters now suffer from some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), percentages that I think must be on the high side. The experience of the men of the 2/16th were far more intense, and therefore not typical of the vast majority of soldiers. The author does not address why PTSD seems to be so much higher than other wars, though probable reasons are the multiple tours of duty and the "disconnect" with the American civilian population that is totally unaffected by the war. The author explains his methodology which involves reconstructing the dialogue of the principle characters. And the dialogue seemed to be authentic to me. He also says that he obtained the agreement of the soldiers and their families to write the story as Finkel saw it, without prior approval. All fair enough, so the stage is now set, and it is mainly in America's heartland, near Ft. Riley, Kansas, where their unit is based when not in Iraq.
It is the story of 10-15 individuals, all of whom are grabbling with the trauma caused by their participation in America's wars in the 21st century. Adam Schumann was on his third tour of Iraq when his mind simply shut down with a determination of "enough." He and his wife Saskia, are two of the principals in Finkel's account. Amanda Doster was widowed, losing her husband, Sergeant First Class, James Doster, age 37. Tausolo Aieti came to the Army, and thence Iraq, via the impoverished Pacific island of American Samoa, where the Army recruiter never has difficulty fulfilling his quota. Kristy Robinson is in the book due to the suicide death of her husband, Jessie. It was road-side bombs, in Army lingo, IED's, that transformed their lives. Patti Walker is a counselor, trying to ensure these soldiers and others obtain the treatment needed to address their trauma. (Her husband is also one that suffers from PTSD). Finkel covers three of the programs: one administered by the VA in nearby Topeka, another by a private company in Pueblo, Colorado, and a third in California, "the Pathway house," operated privately on land at the VA home for soldiers. There is no standard treatment; each program varies considerably. The author also covers the efforts of the senior leadership in the Army to prevent suicides, in particular, as conducted by Vice Chief of Staff, General Peter Chiarelli. (Each suicide is reviewed by a special group in Washington, with an emphasis on "the lessons learned.") The ending is brilliant, and underscores the continued Congressional indifference to these men's (and women's) blight. I also felt that the "snapshot" pictures, in the tradition of cinema vérité, enhanced the book.
Though I was not surprised at the mental trauma experienced by these soldiers who had endured multiple tours, I was surprised that considerable effort, despite its short-comings, was being expended to address this trauma. (In terms of short-comings, one of the saddest cases involved one family that had to fake incest and child-molestation in order to get treatment.) Nonetheless, I was also surprised that Finkel did not address one of the most effective treatments, and its lack: meaningful employment. And intertwined with the issue of employment may be the negative stereotyping of all veterans based on these accounts of a few who were in intense combat.
The title is aptly sardonic. It is that most hollow expression that Federal workers are taught to say to veterans, usually as an addendum to the explanation why they can do absolutely nothing for them. Finkel's account is well-researched and a heart-felt "epilogue" to the fate of the men (and women) who chose to be where the bombs happen to fall. 5-stars.
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