A young war veteran tells the story of how his tour in Iraq left him unable to cope with day-to-day civilian life.
For Anthony (Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq, 2009, etc.), life as a soldier in the U.S. Army had its perks. “The rush from constant, near-death experiences was like no other,” he writes. But it also had a pronounced dark side. Days flowed together into a never-ending sameness that made remembering events difficult, and physically overtaxed soldiers, including Anthony, lived on prescribed pain medication. When the author returned to San Diego from his tour, he realized that he was addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills and that “it had been two years since I’d even kissed a woman.” Lonely and miserable, Anthony decided that if his life did not improve in three months, he would kill himself. He began his quest for happiness by signing up for a three-day self-improvement course on how to attract women. Yet all he could manage were brief encounters that did nothing to save him from the emptiness he felt inside. Anthony then moved home to Massachusetts, where he joined a group of men who gathered together to pick up women. There, he met a fellow vet named Gunner, whose rage and addictions mirrored the author’s and who would eventually attempt suicide. Anthony continued to stumble through his days and relationships, desperately searching for relief in alcohol, hypnosis, and PTSD groups for war veterans. He finally decided to kill himself by overdosing on Ambien. Catching sight of a copy of Shakespeare’s Henry V, however, he decided to write his story, an act that saved him from self-destruction and began to bring him back to life. Though the text moves to a conclusion that only outlines the recovery phase of his life, this at-times darkly comic memoir serves as an important reminder of the human cost of America’s involvement in overseas conflicts.
An intense memoir that could have been more fully fleshed out.