“Two Wars” by Nate Self

I just finished reading my third military-related book since The Warrior left. This is more reading than I have done in the past year. I absolutely LOVE reading…I have been an avid reader since early grade school. In fact, I would get in trouble at home because I read TOO much! But sometimes, life gets in the way.

However, I have altered my transportation schedule so that I take the train to work instead of driving the whole way, which allows a lot of time for reading and writing. I start my train ride off with reading my prayerbook, writing my daily letter or card to The Warrior, and then reading whatever book I’ve chosen. The first book I finished was Bulletproof by Chuck Holton (former Army Ranger), which The Warrior gave to me as “a book for the road ahead.” It was an excellent and Biblically-based way to start out the deployment, and I took lots of notes in my deployment notebook. The next one I read (and finished last week, over Christmas) was Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War by David and Nancy French. David was an attorney but then felt called to join the Army Reserves in his 30’s, after the Iraq war had started. So he became a JAG officer and worked his way up to Captain; he ended up seeing traumatic things he would never forget. (I will save Chuck Holton and David’s books for another review.)

I was in our local library last week and found another interesting military book entitled Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts–Abroad and Within by Nate Self (former Army Ranger and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Silver Star). He was the Ranger leader in the battle atop Takur Ghar in Afghanistan back in 2002; before that, he had deployed to Kosovo, and after Afghanistan, deployed to Iraq. This book deals not only with his lifein the military, as an Army Ranger, but his life following his leaving the Army. He wrote about his intense struggle with PTSD in an interesting way, as if he was talking out his story in his head in the present moment. He wrote about how heroic his wife Julie was in this fight within himself. He wrote about how he began to find healing. The part that really touched me was on page 323, when he was visiting Times Square Church in New York with Julie:

” ‘The Lord is preparing you for a day,’ Carter [the pastor] continued. ‘If you are in a dungeon of darkness, in a place of despair, understand that a picture comes from a negative. There’s a darkroom first. There’s a negative that develops. From a negative comes a picture…You are going to come out of hiding. You are going to stand among your peers in your cities and towns. Some will be on stages; some will be on street corners. But God is going to set you as the final picture in this generation.’ “

I found that very deep and moving. I was reading it during lunch, sitting at my desk, and had to stop eating my chocolate chip oatmeal cookie so I could properly control my tear ducts. I imagined how Nate must have been feeling, dealing with the devastating after-effects of combat…the after-effects of seeing his beloved men die…the after-effects of looking death straight in the face himself.

I’m just a civilian, I will only be married to the Army, only a dependent…I will never see combat, I will never be a soldier. I will never understand exactly what The Warrior is going through “over there.” But this is why I am reading. I am beginning to devour books dealing with war (especially our recent/current ones) and combat and post-traumatic stress. I want to know as much as I am able. Some of it I can get from The Warrior and his brother, but not everything. Some things he will only share with his brother and his brothers-in-arms. I get that and I respect that, even though it can make me feel helpless (and then frustrated because I realize my own weakness and limits). To be armed with knowledge is an important thing as a future military wife, though. We can’t turn a blind eye to what war is and what war does to people, as so many in America do, whether willingly or in ignorance or in disgust. The general public enjoys hearing about the glorious side of war: the medals, the CABs (Combat Action Badge), the Purple Hearts, the deployment ribbons. But once they get to the hellish part of it, they shrink away and turn a blind eye. Those of us who love a soldier must know and face that uncomfortable side.

I have heard to not watch the news as a military fiancee/wife…I have been told to have my soldier not tell me when bad things happen, to lie if needed…but the hard truth is that bad things DO happen and I want to know the truth. I also can’t help but scan the front page of the news agency that is my home page, every time I open my browser…my eyes searching for news about Afghanistan. Usually there isn’t anything, but today I read a headline about a blast killing three people. I froze, just staring at the link…and then hovered my cursor over the link and breathed a sigh of relief. It couldn’t have been The Warrior. There are so many thoughts that run through one’s mind in those few seconds, though, and still I stared at the short article feeling glad that it wasn’t him.

I was thinking about this blog post as I was driving to the gym this evening, and I felt that it was going to be so much more eloquent than I’ve just put it. I hope that I’ve done Two Wars enough justice for now. It was an inspiring book and gave me more insight into the mind of a soldier. My next book will be one that The Warrior has read and really liked: On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman. I’m sure my mind will be opened to some very interesting things, to say the least.

Until They All Come Home,

~Malori~

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