David Finkel's "The Good Soldiers", a work of non-fiction, was published in 2009. In 304 pages it tells the story of a 15 month tour of an infantry battalion which began during the 2007 "Surge" in the Iraq war. The unit was under the command of the ever optimistic Lt. Colonel Ralph "it's all good" Kauzlarich. Although I followed the war on TV and other news media, the Good Soldiers is the first book I've read about it. The fact that it won numerous book awards plus very good reviews - plenty can be found on-line - convinced me to give the book a try. "Good Soldiers" is a compelling read.
Each chapter begins with a quote from then President George W. Bush. For examples:
Chapter 6, July 23, 2007 - "I'm optimistic. We'll succeed unless we lose our nerve". (huh? if you were one of those who didn't have the nerve to serve in the Vietnam war, why would you say that?)
Chapter 7, Sept 4, 2007 - "We're kicking ass". (Mr. tough guy)
What do the soldiers say about the war? (pg 129, in my paperback edition) One said that "they say on TV that the soldiers want to be here? I can't speak for every soldier, but I think if people went around and made a list of names of who f...ing thinks we should actually be here and who wants to be here, ain't nobody wants to be here." Sounds like the truth to me.
On a leave from Iraq, Lt. Colonel Kauzlarich visited some of his seriously injured soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, soldiers without arms, legs, ears, eyes, etc. One wore short sleeve shirts even though his arm was terribly scarred. He said "I want people to know the terrible price of war".
These tours were also hard on the wives left to raise their children alone, living under the constant fear of being widowed. Many families suffered from financial difficulties. The book also gives us an Iraqi perspective from some who worked with U.S. troops. They faced many challenges including resentment from other Iraqis for helping the Americans.
The total combat deaths for the Iraq war have been just under 4,500. As just noted, there are those who survived but suffered horrific wounds, many caused by ied's (improvised explosive devices) and efp's (explosively formed penetrators). My guess is that modern medical techniques and the speed at which they get the wounded to a medical facility geared to treat such wounds have kept many of the soldiers alive who only 40 to 50 years earlier did not survive their wounds in Vietnam. Then there were those whose wounds were not as visible such as ptsd (post traumatic stress disorder) and tbi (traumatic brain injury).
Some may be tempted to look at the casualty totals and conclude that this war wasn't so bad in comparison to other wars involving the U.S. The Vietnam war resulted in over 58,000 killed. The soldiers who fought in Vietnam were primarily draftees. Once their year was up, they knew that they would never have to go back to Nam. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been fought by soldiers facing multiple tours of duty - 4 or 5 tours was not unusual. The stress had to be unbelievable as the tours mounted up.
From my post of 11/2/13, "Beyond Veterans Day" (should you want to help some of these vets):
Here are two of the best known organizations you can contribute to:
Disabled American Veterans - www.dav.org
Wounded Warrior Project - www.woundedwarriorproject.org
These are not the only worthy organizations. Before giving to any organization claiming to aid veterans (or any other charity), you should check them out on www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national to make sure they're legitimate. To be accredited by the BBB (Better Business Bureau), a charity has to meet 20 standards for charity accountability. The Disabled American Veterans and Wounded Warrior Project have met these standards. Don't assume that all well known charities meet the standards of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.