A memoir about a young soldier’s travails.
In his first book, the nameless author—he withholds nearly all names out of deference to privacy—recounts troubles that seemingly followed him his entire life. Born in Georgia, his family moved with his father’s military career, taking them to North Dakota and then Florida. His childhood was beleaguered from the beginning; being shy, overweight, and socially awkward left him chronically friendless. That alienation proved insufferable for him, and he was driven to attempt suicide. In high school, though, he joined ROTC, lost the extra pounds, and started to slowly develop a sense of purpose, which eventually led to a military career. Along the way, he met and married his first girlfriend, who, unfortunately, turned out to be another source of sadness for him. Cantankerous and unsupportive, she became pregnant with another man’s child while the author was in Iraq, and he finally divorced her. He threw himself into his work, eventually becoming a highly skilled combat engineer, and his job took him to Iraq, Jordan, and Germany. The same job took a psychological toll, however, and the stress swamped him. Once again, he flirted with notions of suicide, and he was diagnosed with PTSD, leading to his discharge from the military. An uplifting part of the author’s often grim tale is the commitment his new wife made to him despite his troubles—a heartening element of the remembrance. The book reads like a diary, breezily anecdotal and sometimes frustratingly self-pitying. And while the author acknowledges from the start that the book isn’t sufficiently proofed, the preponderance of grammatical errors do, in fact, undermine the clarity of the writing. The author, though, is to be commended for his candor—he is remarkably forthcoming about intensely personal foibles. Also, the self-effacing nature of the narrative can be endearing; the author gets drunk on his wedding night (to his second wife’s chagrin), and he calls himself out as a “class act jerk.” While the descriptions of his military service can be both edifying and harrowing, it’s unlikely this book will interest those who don’t know the author well.
A sometimes-touching recollection that is outclassed by similar efforts in the growing genre of military memoirs.