I used to live near Fort Benning, Home of the Infantry. There I met soldiers returning from Desert Storm, our first Iraq war; and leaving for Afghanistan in early 2002 – yes, special operatives did go then. While my generation, and several since, have read Tim O’Brien’s accounts of the Vietnam War, it looks like we can soon read the next chapters. This memoir news is excerpted from NPR Story by Quil Lawrence, aired 9/11/12:
More than 10 years since a new generation of Americans went into combat In Iraq, the soldiers themselves are starting to write the story of war. Veteran Brian Castner says that after he returned home, his condition began to dismantle his family, and his wife pushed him to write it down. “I wrote this book for my sons. Because when I wrote it, I had no agent and no publisher and no plan,” he says. “I just knew I had a story that needed to come out, and I wasn’t the father I wanted to be, and I wasn’t the husband I wanted to be. And then, if nothing else, I’d print out one copy and stick it on the shelf and have it for my sons when they got older.” The result is a painful but compelling read, even as Castner finds ways to cope, at least partially, with his long walk back at home.
Castner opens his new memoir, The Long Walk, with a direct and disturbing warning: “The first thing you should know about me is that I’m Crazy,” he writes. “I haven’t always been. Until that one day, the day I went Crazy, I was fine. Or I thought I was. Not anymore.”
Castner was an Air Force EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) officer in Iraq — he defused bombs for a living. But he returned home to a minefield inside his head. “The long walk” is an old bomb-squad term.
“The literal meaning is when you put on the bomb suit, and a single person has to walk up to the IED alone,” he says. “In the EOD world, we call that the long walk — it’s been called that for decades. The long walk at home — I’m not sure if it’s done yet.”
For more of the excerpt you can read Stories from A New Generation of American Soldiers. Castner blogs at http://briancastner.com/the-long-walk/. Meanwhile, unlike the soldiers of Vietnam, we now know that one needs to lance the wound of trauma and memory in order to heal. Memoir can do that, personal history. Comments welcome.