More war? I’ve had so much war. What could he possibly have to say that I haven’t heard already? I had more than a few reservations about reading it.
But then I kept hearing about him and this book.
He’s a Dartmouth graduate. He’s a Marine Corps veteran. His book was short-listed for the Frank O’Connor Prize. He was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35.”
And then the book won the National Book Award for fiction.
So I read it. It’s utterly and quite literally breathtaking. I found myself not breathing for long passages.
I think every American should read it, no matter what you think you know about the war(s), no matter your opinion, no matter if you’d rather not. There’s a disconnect for Americans, I think, that’s different today than for wars past. In World War II, for example, most households had someone fighting, and 100% of the population had to contend with rationing and availability of goods. I’ve heard that less than 0.5% of Americans serve in the military today. How many people do you know personally who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan? How has your personal economy been disrupted? For me, I can’t think of anyone who fought or anything I’ve done differently. Americans were in it together, this time we’re not.
The stories in “Redeployment” are written from the POVs of every kind of person you can imagine deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, in every kind of situation. Ben Fountain’s back cover blurb on my copy sums it up: “If you want to know the real cost of war for those who do the fighting, read Redeployment. These stories say it all, with an eloquence and rare humanity that will simultaneously break your heart and give you reasons to hope.”
This is the section I was going to quote, but here’s Phil Klay reading it …
Here’s something you might not know. Marines don’t have a medical unit of their own. They use Navy Corpsmen. My son was a Navy Corpsman. Every time Klay mentions corpsmen in a story, I think of him.
I think of how I didn’t know Navy Corpsmen followed Marines. I didn’t know how the Navy worked.
I didn’t know anything.
But now I know we were lucky. He stayed on the “blue side,” the Navy side, and he’s home now, a Navy veteran, going to school to continue his medical studies.
Lucky. So very lucky.