The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War by Brandon Friedman is a memoir of a soldier’s experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. From my understanding – based on countless books, documentaries, and conversations with military folks – his experiences aren’t that unusual. Kid thinks being a soldier is cool so he joins the military. Kid gets sent overseas to a war and realizes just how f’ed up war actually is. Kid comes home a changed person.
And that’s basically how this book played out. Except it was so much more than that. In order for me to be able to sympathize with someone (I won’t say empathize because there’s no way I can ever understand what it’s like to be a combat vet unless I actually become a combat vet), I need to know the why’s and how’s: why did he do that, how did she feel. War movies don’t really cut it for me, because they don’t give you enough time to get to know the soldiers (with the exception possibly of Operation: Homecoming and Generation Kill). And Friedman was able to explain his reactions, feelings, and reasons very clearly.
I think that everyone should read this book, to know what our soldiers are going through over there. Whether you agree with our reasons for the war or not (and I don’t; no matter how much military stuff I ingest I remain a staunch liberal pacifist), our soldiers are psychologically f’ed up from their experiences, and the least that we owe them is the attempt to understand as best we can what they went through.