The chronicle of MacLeish’s (Medicine, Health and Society/Vanderbilt Univ.) immersion in the culture of Fort Hood, Texas, to understand daily life on military bases.
The author spent a year observing the rhythms of life and death at Fort Hood, a base with about 55,000 individuals, many of whom have returned to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. MacLeish expanded his doctoral thesis in this book, so the language is sometimes arcane, meant for a scholarly audience accustomed to authors devoting significant portions of a book explaining the methodology employed. Such clinical research can seem cold when set against an intentional culture of violence, in which the military troops are being trained to kill. MacLeish opens with a traumatized veteran called Dime, who resides near Fort Hood after experiencing the horrors of war in Iraq. Dime is receiving assistance for his various traumas, but MacLeish suggests that escaping the trauma is especially difficult when living near a military base, where war violence is anticipated and institutionalized—it is the norm, routine. The author ends with the mass killing on the base on November 5, 2009, when Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire inside the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Notwithstanding the Hasan incident, the image of Fort Hood had been suffering because of the base’s recent highest-ever rate of suicide.
A depressing yet enlightening account that mostly overcomes its academic jargon.