Thursday, August 19, 2010

"War" by Sebastian Junger

Recently finished reading "War" by Sebastian Junger and found it be a pretty good book... with some really compelling parts interspersed with a few that dragged somewhat.

I'm a fan of Junger's writing after having finished "The Perfect Storm", "A Death in Belmont" and then "Fire" (with my review here). His most recent effort stems from a year spent in the Korengal region of Afghanistan entrenched with with a Forward Operating Base Army platoon. From this time came the book as well as a documentary film titled Restrepo after combat medic Juan Restrepo who was killed in action.

What struck me about "War" was the descriptions of the men in the platoon and how they functioned together in a combat situation. Junger describes their connection as one of Love (also the heading of the book's third and final section) for your fellow solider and a togetherness that one just doesn't find elsewhere.

To that end, I also found myself very interested in what Junger wrote about the difficulty of leaving combat to return to the trivialities of a non-combat zone base or civilian life. In particular, the life of platoon member Brendan O'Byrne was featured and as I was writing this review, I found this really interesting piece about he and Junger's relationship since their time in the Korengal. Gotta be tough to return to "real life" when it doesn't get any more real life than war.

Additional thing I found noteworthy was the idea of courage. As stated before, Junger equates courage with love, but many soldiers didn't seem to view their actions as courageous, but rather simply doing the job they were trained to do. To illustrate this, Junger included in the book a 1908 quote from New York City Fire Chief Ed Croker at the funeral for five of his men...

"Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a firemen his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work."

Compelling notion and a quote that I'm glad to have seen in this interesting book... which also made me want to see the aforementioned movie, Restrepo.