War Trauma: Military Memoirs

by Martha Bauder, LTC, US Army Reserve Physician

Castner, Brian. The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows. Doubleday. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780385536202. $25.95. MEMOIR

“The Crazy” is what former Air Force explosives ordinance officer Castner calls the feeling that assailed him after his return from several deployments to the Middle East. The Crazy stalked him by day, invaded his dreams at night, and plagued his every waking moment for months with flashbacks of his war experiences. He would try to outrun it by day but succeeded only in keeping it at bay for a few minutes or hours, but it would return in his sleep in the form of nightmares. Castner details his experiences both in the Iraq War and in his own private war afterward, along with the methods he used (conventional and nonconventional) to battle his personal demons. VERDICT An important look at what veterans of the current wars are dealing with, along with the resources available to them through the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs, this book will benefit readers interested in the issues and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-deployment reintegration.

Luttrell, Marcus & James D. Hornfischer. Service: A Navy SEAL at War. Little, Brown. 2012. c.352p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780316185363. $27.99. MEMOIR

Recovering from injuries suffered in the war in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Luttrell (Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10), with help from navy historian Hornfischer (Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal), picks up the story where his previous memoir left off, with his subsequent deployment to the hotspot of Ramadi, Iraq. He narrates a thrilling and, at times, harrowing account of his SEAL team on their mission to wrest control of the city from entrenched insurgent forces. Their mission was to protect the Iraqi civilian population from the brutality of the insurgents. In the process, they also were able to help turn public opinion in favor of the Americans serving there. He ties his story to the history of the SEAL teams as far back as World War II. Included are interviews with wives and widows of SEAL team members from the recent conflicts. VERDICT At times, the book’s stories sound like tales from the Wild West. This memoir will have no troubling holding the attention of readers, especially those interested in SEAL military operations.

starred review star Parrish, John A. Autopsy of War: A Personal History. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2012. c.352p. photogs. ISBN 9781429941044. $25.99. MEMOIR

Parrish (cofounder, Ctr. for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology) was a medical resident when he was drafted into a year of service in Vietnam, a period that has haunted him for the last 40 years. In this personal account of his time at war and his subsequent battle with PTSD, he details how these ghosts have followed him throughout his life, almost ruining not only his budding career, but also his family, his relationships, and very nearly himself. He describes the horrors of war and his struggle to regain control of his psychological health (a fight which he kept secret from his colleagues and friends for decades), which led to his founding of the Home Base program in Boston for returning military veterans with similar issues. VERDICT This book is essential for medical personnel entrusted with the mental health of soldiers returning from war. Vietnam War historians and military medical personnel will find it both challenging and noteworthy.

Scotti, Mike. The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life After War. Grand Central. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781455503483. $26.99. MEMOIR

Marine artillery officer Scotti survived deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq only to be nearly sidelined by anger, depression, and frustration on his return home. It wasn’t until he, with the help of friends, began to edit film footage that he had shot in Iraq that he began to come to grips with the horrors that he had witnessed. This book documents not only his experiences in war, but also how he fell back on his Marine training to earn a prime spot in the financial world of Wall Street. When he realized that the finance job held no future or joy for him, he used some of the high-powered contacts that he had made there to help launch a nonprofit organization that now assists National Guard and reserve soldiers. VERDICT One Marine’s story of how his ability to channel his military training into several important civilian endeavors shows how the discipline and fraternity of the Marines can overcome post-deployment stresses.

Stockinger, Zsolt T. Fragments from Iraq: Diary of a Navy Trauma Sergeon. McFarland. 2012. c.250p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780786469512. pap. $40. MEMOIR

In his day-by-day record of a Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon in Taqaddam, Iraq, during the bloodiest days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, navy surgeon Stockinger illustrates the roller-coaster ride that was the second Iraq War. He details various (and, to him, notable) traumas suffered by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and insurgents, as well as the resultant surgeries, while often veering off to describe pranks or tell humorous anecdotes from his deployment. His writing is reminiscent of a travelog; the human suffering behind the traumas is rarely addressed. VERDICT An interesting look at the inner workings of the medical world of the U.S. military at war, complete with pictures taken from the base. Caution—this book contains graphic images of surgeries and trauma.

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