Book Review: Jarhead

Just finished reading the book Jarhead on the advice (and gift) of my mother-in-law.

She had read the book before seeing the movie and was so impressed I was the beneficiary of a paperback copy. It had one of those Oprah-esque stickers that said “Summer Reading”, though I seriously doubt you’d confuse Operation Desert Storm with the latest Grisham.

I’m no soldier, but I am a patriot and this book made me really examine the meaning of state, country, patriotism and war.

I think I know Anthony Swofford (the author) and his politics, but the books stays above (or below) that fray. Instead he portrays this war, his war, from his own perspective and the views of those around him.

For as many men are in his platoon, there are that many reactions to and versions of the war.

There is some autobiographical content mixed in as well – stories of his family and his life before and after the war, and here we have some real meat. The majority of the book, though, deals with the first Iraq war and it is simply riveting.

The language can be quite raw, but it can also be refined and poetic. My favorite moment is right at the very end as Swofford recounts being bussed back to the base after returning from the war. A Vietnam vet boards his bus and is almost unable to speak, but gives the men his thanks for humanizing himself and his fellow vets.

Above all things the book makes the case that at the core the men who fight wars are just that, men. No more, no less.

Pick up a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m thinking of giving it as a gift to my ex-Navy younger brother

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