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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soft Spots - Universality of the Combat Veteran's Trauma

I completed Soft Spots by Clint Van Winkle. It is a wonderfully written book, weaving war experiences in Iraq with his continuing flashbacks after he returns home. I found especially enlightening what he wrote about his World War II grandfather, since it mirrors what my WWII veteran father told me about the lasting impact of war, even World War II, the "Good War"

Excerpt from the book:

My grandpa never talked about World War II to anyone. The family knew he had served in the Army but not much else. After I became a Marine, he started to tell stories about his war to me. It was a "good war" -- the other "war to end all wars" that didn't end any wars. I found out he served overseas for three years, dug fighting holes in occupied Berlin, got into bar fights in France, and spent time in Wales. He talked about going and coming, his Army buddies and training, but never got into the stuff I really wanted to know. Had he ever killed anybody....

When I got back from Iraq, and saw my grandpa, we talked about war again. However, we talked about it in a different manner than we had years earlier. We talked about the places we saw and the friends we gained. We bypassed the death and shooting. Our wars were sixty years apart but weren't really any different. It didn't matter how many years separated our wars or where we traveled to fight them. Blood still dried the same way around wounds and charred bodies still crusted over the same as they always have. It didn't matter that he'd fought in a "good war" and I fought in a controversial war; because the effect turned out to be the same: Neither of us could find anything praiseworthy about combat.

The Real World Brooklyn and Iraq

Today's combat veteran

A small-town Pennsylvania boy with a laid-back personality, Ryan has had his share of action. After enlisting in the army at the age of 17, he served in Iraq and got an eyeful. Now 23, he has returned from his duty with a newfound appreciation for life and a better perspective on the world around him, despite having lived through many near-death experiences, as well as the death of a close friend. A class clown who juggles his time between amateur filmmaking, guitar playing and pranking those around him, Ryan is currently in his first-ever relationship.