War is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is a gripping account of the events, battles, men, dynamics, and psychology of war as experienced firsthand with the men of second platoon of the 173rd Airborn brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley – one of the most intense and bloody corners of the conflict. In 2007-2008, author Sebastian Junger inteminently spent 14 month’s with the men of second platoon.
As someone who works alongside and ministers within the context of the military community, I was particularly drawn to this book. This book is very eye-opening for anyone interested in what actual combat experience is like.
Along the journey, Sebastian experiences the terror and thrill of war. He sees men die in battle right in front of him. Like a drug, most of the men crave the bloody encounters with the Taliban, even while the reality that at any moment their lives could be over is obvious.
The sense of mission and togetherness for a cause bigger than themselves gave their lives a weight and meaning they had never had back in the ‘civilized’ world. While most of the men could care less about the politics behind the war, they fought and sacrificed for the lives of the men to their right and their left.
Here are a few of the lines that really grabbed my attention while reading War:
(In relation to why some platoons survive surprise attacks and overwhelming odds): “The choreography always requires that each man make decisions based not on what’s best for him, but on what’s best for the group. If everyone does that, most of the group survives. If no one does, most of the group dies. That, in essence, is combat.”
“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – Winston Churchill
(On group accountability regarding things like tying the laces on your boots or drinking enough water): “There was no such thing as personal safety out there; what happened to you happened to everybody”
(A surprising statistic): “Statistically, it’s six times as dangerous to spend a year as a young man in America than as a cop or a fireman, and vastly more dangerous than a one-year deployment at a big military base in Afghanistan.”
***Side note*** This was the first book I’ve read entirely on a Kindle – I rather enjoyed the experience… my only hesitancy is the difficulty it now is to share the book with other friends.
*** Another side note*** I look forward to watching the documentary Restrepo with Sebastian and his photographer/videographer when it comes out in November. It was filmed during this same experience.