Probably the best way to understand war (if in fact that is possible) and to comprehend the context for such a horrific undertaking is to read and hear the stories of those who participated in the events on the ground. Too many pundits and politicians who have never served in the military pontificate about the glories and grandeur of war, thus providing us with a view of war and its consequences that are not at all based on reality. The suffering and death get reduced to sound bits that are used to support or undermine positions defend by the speakers. Recently, on a recommendation from my brother, Charlie, I read two memoirs of war that put faces on those who were involved in conflict and both books left a profound impression on me. One was about WWII and one about Iraq. Both were stunning and moving accounts about what war was to the writers.Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends written by William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron (with Robyn Post) is an account of the war experiences of two young men from South Philadelphia who went off to WWII not knowing each other and who through their incredible experiences in the European theater became life long friends. They still reside in south Philly and their war stories were recently highlighted in the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers. These two guys can only be described as "characters" and patriots in the truest sense of the word.
You will not be able to put this wonderful, heart warming, thrilling and inspiring book down. From D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge, their stories of courage and heroism abound. Fighting in temperatures well below zero, with no gloves, socks or winter clothing, they and thousands like them fought on to victory. Although suffering through such conditions, they did not falter. Neither, including Guarnere who lost a leg in the war, has any regrets. It's these kinds of soldiers that Veterans Day and Memorial Day are for. No sunshine soldiers here.
Quite a different story of war is that of Bob Woodruff, an ABC news anchor who was seriously wound by an Improvised Explosive Device while imbedded in a unit while covering the war. He and his cameraman were seriously wounded, Woodruff the worst suffering from a serious brain injury. In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing is the story of his recovery and the traumatic experience his family was put through during his many months of difficult surgeries and rehabilitation. Written in both his and that of his wife, Lee, the reader not only learns of their trials and heart break, but both Woodruffs point out time and time again that their journey was like that of many soldiers injured in Iraq and their families as well. The Woodruff's story is inspiring in that not only is it about the saving of a life of one man but also about the struggle of save a family and as well. The front pages of our papers do not report on the thousands of such stories our military families face on a daily basis.
The Woodruffs stress that war is not glamorous and being a television newscaster is not all it seems. Obviously, their lives are forever changed. Both are now involved with families going trough similar difficulties and are strong advocates for medical care for all. They realized their position of affluence and the corporate money of ABC were of enormous help to them but that many others are not so fortunate. Out of this tragic occurrence to Bob Woodruff, much good will result. Thankfully.
As a concluding note, I have not read this book but I did hear its author speak recently and the story Kimberly Dozier of CBS has to tell is similar to that of Bob Woodruff. She too was seriously wounded in Iraq and as part of her therapy was encouraged to write her story. Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Report and Survive in Iraq looks like it might be a rewarding read as well.