In this memoir, Jon Kerstetter reflects on his life that began in poverty on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin. With incredible perseverance, he trained as an emergency physician, volunteering in war-torn places like Rwanda and Kosovo, eventually joining the Army National Guard. After three tours in Iraq, saving soldiers’ lives, he returned to the U.S., only to have a massive stroke that definitively ended his career as a doctor and a soldier. His years-long recovery, compounded by his PTSD, changes the way he understood his body and mind’s limitations. His story of his tenacious healing is inspiring to anyone who’s ever faced a challenge.
These Heroic, Happy Dead
In the ten stories of Luke Mogelson’s masterful debut collection, we see lives that have been forever changed by war. The stories are linked by characters that appear and then reappear later on; we meet veterans who are struggling upon their return and, later on, see them in the deployments that first sent them to the battlefield. We fleetingly read about a soldier in one story, who becomes the central protagonist of another and move back and forth in time from active combat at the front to reintroduction into society at home. Mogelson’s stories are bleak and starkly honest, yet are told with an undercurrent of dark humor, which make for an unflinching debut collection.
This story collection, which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction, is a deftly written account of the American experience during the Iraq War. Some stories are set in small towns in Iraq, similar to where Klay, a former Marine, was stationed, and some are set back in the U.S. as soldiers try to assimilate to life at home, where neighbors aren’t even sure where Fallujah is. These stories perfectly capture the oxymorons of a soldier’s life: the pride and disgust, the monotony and intensity, hating Iraq and yet not being able to come home again—all told from someone who knows.
Veterans Day occurs annually on November 11, a day meant for honoring those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The day originally arose from Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I, as the major hostilities were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In 1954, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, meant to honor the service of all U.S. Veterans. For those of us who haven’t served in the Armed Forces, it can be hard to understand the trials and hardships involved in military service to your country. That’s why it’s so important to read about it, to better understand what veterans go through. We’ve gathered a few incredible books that tell the soldier’s story; by reading them, we can better honor their commitment to our country.
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