O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand / Between their loved homes and the war's desolation ~ The Star Spangled Banner
On Veteran's Day, we honor all of our fellow citizens who've served their country at war. Honestly, it's hard to imagine a job that demands more from a human being, body and soul for such a relatively small reward. It's a job that seems to be able to provoke some of the most extraordinary virtues in people: bravery, selflessness, ingenuity, embedded in the most horrific setting mankind has created.
From the histories of warfare, and the true stories of soldiers, to powerful fictionalized accounts - even graphic novels and comic strips - KCLS has a broad range of books, movies, and DVDs about the veterans of America's wars. I found an interesting list, "43 Books about War Every Man Should Read" by Ryan Holiday, that provides a useful overview of the subject, if you're interested.
But in this post I'd like to focus on the ones who came home.
When my great-uncle was 16, he lied about his age, and ran away to join the Navy, and fight in World War II. Apparently that tradition goes back to the earliest wars the United States has fought. Gary Paulsen's A Soldier's Heart, a short, intense YA novel, is based on a 15-year-old boy who ran away to fight in the Civil War.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain is a more raucous read. Billy and his Bravo squad-mates have gotten themselves fifty minutes of fame as Real American Heroes thanks to some opportunistic journalists and politicians. The reality of their lives is... different.
I appreciate the way novels can take you out of yourself to experience someone else's story. But sometimes you just want to know what really happened. David Finkel spent months embedded with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion during the grueling 2007 surge in Bagdad. Then he followed them after they came home. The reality of these men's experience is equal parts intense, infuriating, and sad: Thank You For Your Service.
And sometimes you want to know what to do about it.
So for those who're returning from war zones, and their family, KCLS has what I hope are useful titles. I've highlighted three, but you can always contact us, and we'll help you find the rest.
Military to Civilian: Success for Veterans and Their Families by Ronald L. Kranich, just published this year, claims to be the "ultimate re-imagining guide for making smart re-careering, relocation, and retirement decisions." It's brand new, and I hope it's as helpful as it appears to be.
Slightly older, The Wounded Warrior Handbook: A Resource Guide for Returning Veterans, proved so valuable after it was published in 2009, a new updated edition was released in 2012. In light of the increasing complexity and red tape that veterans have to deal with from the VA, as well as the financial, legal and tax issues they face, I hope the publishers come out with an updated version ASAP.
And for those, like me and my family, who were part of the team that stayed home, there's Courage After Fire for Parents of Service Members: Strategies for Coping When Your Son or Daughter Returns from Deployment. Although we only have one on-dead-tree version of Paula Domenci's compassionate and accessible title, there are plenty of copies in e-book format. Remember: Even if you don't have an e-reader device, these books can be streamed on your computer.
So to all our veterans: thank you. Thank you so very much.