Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families

Andrew Carroll, Editor, Dana Gioia, Preface by Random House (NY) $26.95 (386p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6562-2
This beautifully edited compilation of writings from modern warriors and their loved ones contains a wonderful range of voices and experience. Culled from an NEA call for the personal stories of service members and their families-a call that resulted in some ten thousand pages of material-the writing on display might make one think war transformed these untrained writers into fearless poets, ready and able to tackle the big topics: heartbreak, courage, sheer pluck and God-awful horror. Divided into six sections, including ""Heading into Combat,"" the ""Daily Grind"" and ""Life on the Home Front,"" Carroll has pulled together dozens of unique voices to achieve the ""integrity and authenticity ... of a full spectrum of viewpoints and experiences."" The results, a series of short, charged narratives that generally range from one to ten pages, are heartening and heartbreaking. In ""Reclamation,"" a seasoned marine is ordered to clean a cemetery, ""little more than a sunken acre of rotting garbage and donkey carcasses... a nasty task that seemed to have no direct benefit to the Iraqi people,"" which would become for him a pivotal experience in building hope and honoring sacrifice. In ""Shallow Hands,"" a 27-year-old Marine attempts to explain the bitter divide between those who've fought and those who have not, while confessing, ""I've been drinking steadily since coming back from the war."" In the remarkable ""Dover,"" readers go into the enormous military mortuary in Deleware that receives home-bound bodies, learning how one of the war's ""politically sanitized phrases"" like ""the fallen hero"" can reclaim its meaning. This collection provides a truly multi-faceted and agenda-free look at the ongoing conflict from the Americans who lived it, and deserves a large audience.
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
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