With unflinching honesty, this troubling memoir depicts a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder tragically ignored by the US government.
After serving six years in the Navy, Centore joined the Department of Energy to direct a Radiological Assistance Program Team, an organization charged with investigating possible incidents of contamination. During the months following 9/11, Centore worked at Ground Zero, searching the wreckage for radioactive materials. Nearly four years later, a back injury lead to panic attacks, sleeplessness and hallucinations. Upon being diagnosed with PTSD, Centore asked for time off and support from his employer, but the government refused, accusing him of going AWOL and milking the system with illegitimate claims about his health. In the final stages of giving this account, the author became so ill that he had to turn narrative duties over to his wife, Sue. The dual narration gives the memoir a stunning immediacy; time ticks dangerously away as Centore self-medicates with alcohol and ultimately suffers renal failure. The use of ordinary and sometimes awkward prose fails to give the memoir a lyrical lift, but the forceful subject matter compels all on its own. Flashing back to his hardscrabble childhood in Havelock, N.C., Centore investigates the dynamics of a family devoted to the military, including a father and stepfather, both Marines, who do not encourage outward emotion. Time spent as a young man on a nuclear submarine during the waning years of the Cold War instilled in the author a devoted, diligent work ethic. When Centore found himself abandoned by his country, he had to reinvent his life; the dedicated, stoic patriot became a passionate, rebellious crusader. This transformation, vividly rendered, forms the dynamic heart of the book. Details about Navy racism, government bureaucracy and the mechanics of an underwater vessel serve as fascinating extras to a necessary and painful narrative.
Despite a few rough patches, an important story that deserves to be heard.