The story of the friendship between an embedded photographer in Afghanistan and a Marine who was wounded in an ambush explosion in 2010.
In this poignant memoir penned in alternating points of view by two very different participants in America’s war in Afghanistan, the authors achieve a shared sense of emotional and physical trauma. O’Reilly, a photojournalist who has spent more than a decade in the most dangerous hot spots on the planet, from Africa to Helmand Province, and Brennan, a Marine squad leader on deployment in Afghanistan, met during that horrific Taliban attack in 2010. O’Reilly took pictures of a wounded Brennan and put them on a web link, to the alarm of his parents, who did not know what was going on. Ultimately, the two “misfits” would meet again in America over their shared suffering from long-running PTSD. After his many deployments and injuries, Brennan suffered from serious concussions, although he preferred to lie about the symptoms rather than reveal the extent of his injuries; O’Reilly, stationed in war zones in Africa and elsewhere, was in denial about his emotional instability. Both men ultimately sought professional help, though for Brennan, it was particularly arduous and painful; even asking for help as a Marine branded him as a “pussy” and lowered his stature with his squad. Nonetheless, the plethora of suicides among his acquaintances and his own bewilderment propelled him to change his career to being a journalist chronicling veterans’ concerns. O’Reilly, on the other hand, had to fight feelings of being “predatory and repulsive” in shooting and publishing scenes of violence. Ultimately, the authors effectively reveal how they moved beyond the “fog of war” and forged a new life after the trauma.
A courageous breaking of the code of silence to seek mental health for veterans and the war-scarred.