As we head off for Memorial Day holidays, it’s a good time to say thank you to our men and women in uniform, past and present, for the sacrifices they have made for our country. I know that I for one take my freedom for granted every single day, and we all owe our armed forces a huge debt of gratitude. Too bad most of us only think about this a few times a year.
I have never been in a war. I’ve never even been in a war zone. The closest I have been was touring Ground Zero about a year after 9/11, and if anyone doubts whether those attacks constituted an act of war against our country, I would say talk to someone who was there that day and I bet you will change your mind.
I experience war the way many Americans do–through the filter of the media. I read about it in newspapers, online, see it on TV, and occasionally pick up a book about it. It is through the words of writers–some professional and some not–that I feel a sense of loss, sacrifice, awe, horror, and gratitude over the experiences of people who represent my country overseas.
Today I want to share with you a few books, all about different wars, that really struck a chord with me. In short, they made me cry. They also made me laugh and wonder and feel grateful for those who have served our country.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien — This poignant collection of stories about Vietnam gives a very personal and humanizing glimpse into the lives of a handful of soldiers by examining the things they carried with them through the jungle: “They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated Bibles, each other.” (from the back cover copy)
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier — This is a love story, first and foremost, but it really drove home for me how bloody the Civil War was and made me realize how close we came to not being a United States.
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson — A terrifying and extremely moving account, set in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, of one of the bloodiest days ever for America’s Navy SEALs. What got me about this book was the gray areas. It made me think about how difficult it is to draw a hard line between right and wrong, especially on the modern battlefield. I read the whole book as told through the eyes of this Navy SEAL who watched his friends die, and even in hindsight, I have no idea how I would have responded if faced with the same impossible choices. This book made me think, and I believe that’s the hallmark of an effective war story.
Can you recommend any books about war or soldiers? Or maybe you saw a movie that really hit home? Please share your thoughts!
And a safe and happy Memorial Weekend to everyone!