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They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story

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A reporter’s firsthand, close-up-and-personal look at the impact of our recent wars on America’s unlucky soldiers.


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A reporter’s firsthand, close-up-and-personal look at the impact of our recent wars on America’s unlucky soldiers.

30 review for They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elisse

    I saw Ann Jones speak in Waltham, MA where she spoke along with Andrew Bacevich. I bought the book based on hearing her speak and am so grateful that I did. I hope more people will read this book and learn about what has happened to the young people that we sent off to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is painful to read because it requires you to acknowledge the suffering of others and your own role in allowing this to continue. Ann Jones has interviewed people involved in every asp I saw Ann Jones speak in Waltham, MA where she spoke along with Andrew Bacevich. I bought the book based on hearing her speak and am so grateful that I did. I hope more people will read this book and learn about what has happened to the young people that we sent off to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is painful to read because it requires you to acknowledge the suffering of others and your own role in allowing this to continue. Ann Jones has interviewed people involved in every aspect of the care of the soldiers (or their bodies) and paints a clear picture of what has happened. The book is not free from her own feelings about this issue, but she does back her opinions with a great amount of research.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Remy Benoit

    When they were children, we wrapped bumpers about the inside edges of their cribs; put locks on doors and cabinets and blocked stairways; we bought car seats, and endlessly held small hands. The years passed—we prayed when they started driving; we stayed up late nights waiting for them to come home safely. If they were lucky; if we could be there for them; if we chose to be there for them. If they were raised in places where fear, poverty, neglect were not their “invisible” but constant and too When they were children, we wrapped bumpers about the inside edges of their cribs; put locks on doors and cabinets and blocked stairways; we bought car seats, and endlessly held small hands. The years passed—we prayed when they started driving; we stayed up late nights waiting for them to come home safely. If they were lucky; if we could be there for them; if we chose to be there for them. If they were raised in places where fear, poverty, neglect were not their “invisible” but constant and too often too visible non-friends. And then, and then we sent them to war, both our young men and our young women. Was it their choice to sign up? Maybe, and maybe it was for economic opportunity, for promised education, for a hundred others reasons and yes, promises of recruiters. Then the training came—the shaved head, the programming, the no thinking for yourself, follow orders—do what you are told without question for the good of the uniform, for the good of the unit, for the good of the country. Yet no one, no training, no ideal of glory can train anyone for reality of war; for the constant on fear, unknown lurking threat of annihilation, powerlessness with bombs, dead comrades in arms splattered about or on you. It has been training to kill or be killed. It undoes all previous training in the reality of kill or be killed. Horrors happen; massacres happen; atrocities happen on both sides and the soldiers who remain alive have to live with them. They may come home whole in body; they may come home without arms/legs/arms and legs; personal body parts; traumatic brain injury; spinal injury; mental, spiritual, psychological injury. They get battlefield care for injury; they are airlifted to hospitals for often multiple surgeries; they come back to VA facilities, families trying to help them, ill equipped to help them. They come back to long, long waiting lists for the VA. They come home to nightmares, to not being able to relate to loved ones who have no idea of what they have known, of what they live with. They come from a misogynist organization where rape of both sexes is swept under paperwork, bureaucracy, and basic keep it quiet for the good of the unit attitudes. They come home changed forever, traumatized. While in service there is the “band of brothers” dependency, even though it does not apply to military rape by those who should have your back. When they come home, that band is disbursed; that stay alive support is not there, and those who have not been there, those who don't know, are not equipped to help. Who are these soldiers? Why are they in the military? Ms. Jones points out with brutal clarity that many are from impoverished families; from areas where drive by shootings are the norm; from areas where the young know no hope of “getting out” without joining the military. They are also from families where generations have served; who grow up with the idea of service. And yet, when one young person says he felt he had a better chance of not getting killed in Afghanistan than he did in his own neighborhood, you know we have a problem at a time when our public schools are declining, funding cuts, leaving less chance of a decent life. At a time when Congressman Waxman called the corporate profits from these wars “the largest war profiteering in history”; while third country nationals are imported into virtual slavery to do the chores of supporting an army, we have a serious problem as soldiers with low pay are surrounded by the ill-defined responsibilities of private contractors making much bigger pay checks. The Army also lowered qualifications for joining to fill in the ranks and those inductees include many with serious criminal records. They go to find a future in the throes of death and destruction. These are the members of the band of brothers and sisters who serve—who come home in transport containers which we used to call less euphemistically body bags; who come home minus arms, legs, personal parts; who come home with TBI; who come home with spinal injuries; who come home with ruptured hearts, minds, and souls. Ms. Jones tells you their real story from the front lines—sharing their time on forward bases, on foreign soil, in wars they are told are endless. These are their stories and you need, as a citizen of this country, as a citizen of the world, and you need to face their reality—up close and personal with compassion, and deep, deep thought about alternatives. Too long have we refused to face the truths she so intensely spells out for us. Is there a solution to all this? Yes, facing reality; facing the horrid, ugly, destructive force of war and choosing otherwise. There is choosing to find another way that builds lives, respects life and the planet; a way that eliminates from our cliched use of words, 'shall not have died in vain' and replaces it with 'led a full, joyful, and productive life.' There is choosing to love our young enough to not send them into the evil jaws of the insatiable gods of war. As always, all is in the choices.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yvette

    People need to read it. Its not a long book, very short in fact, about 200 pages, but it took me awhile to read through it all. I was constantly having to put it down for awhile because I am not able to handle reading too much of it in one day. For anyone like me who is rather quite clueless about how it is for veterans when they return home from the war, you will find this book reveals a lot. These are "untold" stories though, so there is nothing happy about them. They are the stories that are c People need to read it. Its not a long book, very short in fact, about 200 pages, but it took me awhile to read through it all. I was constantly having to put it down for awhile because I am not able to handle reading too much of it in one day. For anyone like me who is rather quite clueless about how it is for veterans when they return home from the war, you will find this book reveals a lot. These are "untold" stories though, so there is nothing happy about them. They are the stories that are covered up, overlooked, and generally kept quiet. What this book reveals disgusted me, sickened me, brought me to tears, and enraged me. I can never again think of soldiers like I used to.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Well researched and laid out. Brutally honest. Heart wrenching. And has left me more angry than I was before. Between the VA scandal and the military benefit cutbacks, this sickens me to the core.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Romany Arrowsmith

    Essential reading. I learned too much from this SURVIVORS Siegfried Sassoon No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk. Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’— These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk. They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,— Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride... Men who went ou Essential reading. I learned too much from this SURVIVORS Siegfried Sassoon No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk. Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’— These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk. They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,— Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride... Men who went out to battle, grim and glad; Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Brutal and unrelenting, an unflinching stare at the wounded coming home from our wars. Devastating.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    You haven’t an arm and you haven’t a leg, You’re an eyeless, noseless, chickenless egg; You’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg: — "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" This is the most brutal book I've ever read, and yet it should be read by everyone 16 and up. Why? Because far too little of truths like these make it into the mainstream where they belong. Every politician getting ready to cast a vote to send more young people out on nation-building exercises around the globe or other likewise fraught-with You haven’t an arm and you haven’t a leg, You’re an eyeless, noseless, chickenless egg; You’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg: — "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" This is the most brutal book I've ever read, and yet it should be read by everyone 16 and up. Why? Because far too little of truths like these make it into the mainstream where they belong. Every politician getting ready to cast a vote to send more young people out on nation-building exercises around the globe or other likewise fraught-with-danger shows of military might, whenever and wherever around the globe, ought to be required to sign a statement acknowledging the bloody consequences in store for the troops they are ready to send off — without any pandering to patriotism. Here are just two compelling passages from the book, with tidbits of my own commentary or out of immediate context elements that shed other light [in brackets or following asterisks (*)]. Most of them [the soldiers—Warriors in New Pentagon Speak—of the all-volunteer military] come from small towns in the South or the rustbelt of the Midwest or the big city ghettoes. Many are following a family heritage of military service that has made veterans of past wars a relatively privileged class, enjoying special access to higher education, jobs, and a nationwide system of socialized medicine. But so many of them are so very young, enticed or strong-armed by smartly uniformed recruiters who work the corridors and classrooms of America's most impoverished and thoroughly militarized high schools. So many are badly educated, knowing nothing of the world and how it operates. So many are immigrants, risking their lives for a fast track to citizenship. So many are poor and short on promise. So many have such a slim chance of another job, another line of work [like the one who tells the author "where else can I get a job doing the stuff I love? . . . Shootin' people. Blowin' shit up. It's fuckin' fun. I fuckin' love it."], let alone a decent wage or a promotion. And because the Pentagon lowered standards to fill the ranks of the volunteer army, so many are high school dropouts, or gangbangers, or neo-Nazi white supremacists, or drug addicts, or convicted felons with violent crimes on their record. In just three years following the invasion of Iraq, the military issued free passes—so called "moral waivers"—to one of every five recruits, including more than 58,000 convicted drug users and 1,605 with "serious" felony convictions for offenses including rape, kidnapping, and murder. When the number of free passes rose in the fourth year, the Pentagon changed the label to "conduct waivers." Kids . . . were hustled through basic training and speedily deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, only to find another army already there—the shadow army of private for-profit defense contractors. Most of them were contracted to do a long list of chores that uniformed soldiers used to do for themselves when, courtesy of conscription, there were a lot more of them. To maximize their profits and minimize their work, however, the private contractors hired subcontractors who, in turn, hired subcontractors from third world countries to ship in laborers to do on the cheap the actual grunt work of hauling water and food supplies, cleaning latrines, collecting garbage, burning trash, preparing food, washing laundry, fixing electrical grids, doing construction, and staffing the fast food stands and beauty salons that sold tacos and pedicures to the troops.* * The U S Navy still has ratings for Culinary Specialist (CS), Legalman (LN), and Ship's Serviceman (SH), just for examples, that could lead to post-military jobs in the civilian employment sector. You won't find these listed among U S Army job descriptions, though, where the emphasis is entirely on war-making skills. No wonder, then, that people coming out of the all-volunteer military mostly have a harder time transitioning back into civilian life. Unlike many, not all, of their predecessors who went through military service, the post Vietnam era "warriors" leave the service with exactly what that term implies as their one and only job skill. Oh, they can tout their work ethic, their discipline, but unlike previous generations of service men and women who used the military as a springboard having garnered an education of sorts in some practical fields of civilian enterprise, the transitioning "warriors" find themselves starting over in the same position they were as teenagers right out of school and competing against newly-minted high school graduates for low-paying entry level or going nowhere jobs.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Kanter

    A short, sharp dagger of a book, aimed at the heart of what Ann Jones calls the U.S.’ state religion: our never-ending wars. She follows wounded soldiers from the battlefields of Afghanistan – where few soldiers are shot and most get their devastating injuries from IEDs - through the gamut of the military medical complex, finding dedicated professionals whose skills and good intentions are thwarted at almost every step by inefficient bureaucracies and systems. She concludes that modern American A short, sharp dagger of a book, aimed at the heart of what Ann Jones calls the U.S.’ state religion: our never-ending wars. She follows wounded soldiers from the battlefields of Afghanistan – where few soldiers are shot and most get their devastating injuries from IEDs - through the gamut of the military medical complex, finding dedicated professionals whose skills and good intentions are thwarted at almost every step by inefficient bureaucracies and systems. She concludes that modern American wars have “become a remarkably efficient engine for transferring the wealth of the nation from the public treasure to the pockets of the already rich.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Ann Jones does a great job describing not only what soldiers go through, but the families as well. Heartbreaking read on the bureaucracy of the military and other government agencies. Regardless of what the media may report, it's a different story for service members and their families and the struggles they endure. Ann Jones does a great job describing not only what soldiers go through, but the families as well. Heartbreaking read on the bureaucracy of the military and other government agencies. Regardless of what the media may report, it's a different story for service members and their families and the struggles they endure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Tragic, epic, and a scathing bit of investigative writing into the sensory impacts of US wars on US soldiers. As the grandson of a war veteran, it causes me to wonder what toll being a soldier in war took on earlier generations of my own family. This book tells a graphic, brutal truth.

  11. 4 out of 5

    victor harris

    Just discussing this. Warning - this is horrifying content. Author does an excellent job digging behind the scenes in what happens with our troops in combat and the many difficulties they ( and their families) experience in the aftermath. Short and poignant.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Jones is coming to my university next month, and I can’t wait. This book was fairly short but jam-packed with unsettling and unnerving details regarding America’s military that are not widely reported in the mainstream press. I had to take a few breaks while reading it; the sections on IED injuries and sexual assaults were particularly difficult to stomach. But this is vital work, and I wish more people would talk about the implications of our American obsession with war.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Oliver

    One of those books, distressing to read, yet necessary. I wish this book was required reading for every congressman (woman) and senator [we'll exclude for now the illiterate clown in charge of the circus]. Talks of the panoply of wounds, physical and psychological, the result of the endless wars of choice our volunteer army brings home (maybe) and the insufficiency of real support services, leading often to tragic consequences. One of those books, distressing to read, yet necessary. I wish this book was required reading for every congressman (woman) and senator [we'll exclude for now the illiterate clown in charge of the circus]. Talks of the panoply of wounds, physical and psychological, the result of the endless wars of choice our volunteer army brings home (maybe) and the insufficiency of real support services, leading often to tragic consequences.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This is a unflinchingly honest book about what happens when we send our boys and girls to war. And IT AIN‘T A GOOD THING! If you want to know about the truth that all those recruitment posters, commercials, movies and recruiters don‘t tell you, read this book. Period.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacques-jude Lépine

    factual account of what happens to wounded soldiers back home. Not a political statement. Just a sad, ugly truth. should be read by all kids being enticed to enroll by smart manipulative recruiters who would not tell them anything about their potential fate.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey Lonsberry

    This book made me think. I appreciate the honest look the author took at war and the war fighter. Raises a lot of good questions that hopefully lead to discourse and change.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Val

    As an American, I am ashamed that we are allowing these endless, pointless wars to continue.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deb W

    I want everyone to read this book, but I don't have high hopes. We let our beloved children go to war, waving the flags over them, proclaiming how we fight for our democracy. Meanwhile, the perpetual war machine chews them up, spits them back, and it's all for adding to the pockets of the war mongers. Our endless wars that no one wins and everybody loses. Loss of life and horrific bodily harm, PTSD that leads to phenomenal rates of suicide, domestic violence (including murder and rape), and gover I want everyone to read this book, but I don't have high hopes. We let our beloved children go to war, waving the flags over them, proclaiming how we fight for our democracy. Meanwhile, the perpetual war machine chews them up, spits them back, and it's all for adding to the pockets of the war mongers. Our endless wars that no one wins and everybody loses. Loss of life and horrific bodily harm, PTSD that leads to phenomenal rates of suicide, domestic violence (including murder and rape), and government provided opiates that lead to addictions. More veterans die of their tormented minds after they return home than were killed by the "enemy." That only skims the surface.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    The information presented is clear and well-researched, and shows the gruesome, "unspeakable" side of war that civilians don't get to see very well. I had a lot of difficulty pinning down the author's point of view, though, as it seemed she would fluctuate between hypercritical (almost snide) to deeply empathetic within chapters and across chapters. It felt a bit disconcerting and made it hard to connect with the text. The information presented is clear and well-researched, and shows the gruesome, "unspeakable" side of war that civilians don't get to see very well. I had a lot of difficulty pinning down the author's point of view, though, as it seemed she would fluctuate between hypercritical (almost snide) to deeply empathetic within chapters and across chapters. It felt a bit disconcerting and made it hard to connect with the text.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Devastating and vital. Even if you've learned a fair bit about our war(s) and are well aware of the military's (and society's) general disregard for troubled veterans and our warmakers' shallow understanding of the actual effects of war at an individual and family level, you may find accounts here that beggar belief. Devastating and vital. Even if you've learned a fair bit about our war(s) and are well aware of the military's (and society's) general disregard for troubled veterans and our warmakers' shallow understanding of the actual effects of war at an individual and family level, you may find accounts here that beggar belief.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Roberts

    This is a must read before you vote. This book is a factual picture of the price that our country and our soldiers are paying and will continue to pay for decades because of politicians who use wars for their own political and monetary gain. I highly recommend this to every person of voting age and any person thinking of joining the military.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Greynomad

    Just another reason why the military is so inept with some of its leaders. What I want to know is who was the idiot who wrote the fitness reports for these jerks. The book was good as always from Jones

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kersten

    As with most war stories, I found this book terrible and wonderful all at the same time. The difference is that this one is real and not fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Reading this slim book is enough to make you against war for the rest of your life. What tortured souls these soldiers are when they return home.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diogenes

    Heartrending and bare-bones blunt. If one wishes to know what war does to human beings, read this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane Duggan

    Still reading. It's a hard read but a great companion to the books by Jonathon Shay...ACHILLES IN VIETNAM & HOMECOMING. Still reading. It's a hard read but a great companion to the books by Jonathon Shay...ACHILLES IN VIETNAM & HOMECOMING.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey Langland

    Ugh. I found this to be somewhat insufferable. While I generally agree with the author on most points, I thought her tone was smug. To the point that I found it difficult to finish.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

    Very thought provoking.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liz Dahlen

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