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War isn't pretty. Odds are you know of someone in the military, or at least have had a relative in one of the many wars from our brutal past. Either way, it doesn't take an astrophysicist to know how utterly destructive war is to many various things, such as international relations, the human psyche, physical health, Earth itself, and much more. Whether or not there is a victor, and even if it is America that triumphs, there is no happy endings in any war, nor is there really a true winner. That's the myth of war, the fact that nothing but death comes with it.
"War assigns no victors," my grandfather used to say. He was in WWII. From the stories he told me of war, which were few and far between, there seemed to be of little hope to even be regained within the thick of it all. Similarly, these following countrymen not only acted in the best interests of our country by keeping us safe, they also intended to share these experiences, despite their holistically negative and dark connotations. To understand the helplessness and bloodiness so acquainted with the battlefronts of old and new, peruse any of these must read books written by veterans. These soldiers were willing to do away with the inflated anti-war film, instead using their memories as talking points in discussions of deathly combat, mental degradation, and uncanny amounts of death.
The Snake Eaters by Owen West
As one of few must read books written by veterans, The Snake Eaters portrays one of the most grueling examples of unpreparedness in the heat of combat. Owen West plops his readers into the Anbar Province, where American Army Reservists are sent in to take over military command of an Iraqi outpost. As most things tend to occur within the military, these reservists were highly unprepared and knew nothing about who or what they were fighting. Add to that the unfound confusion of never knowing the difference between an enemy and a friendly, Owen West makes good use of his storytelling.
The Snake Eaters expertly draws many of the modern flaws that the US military has tried to cover up over the past decade, or so. Owen West, however, brings these ideas to light with an amazing story of cunning and wit as the Reservists begin to mentor the "Snake Eaters," an Iraqi battalion that seems as unprepared and in the dark as they are. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are expertly challenged by the way West writes with such an unblemished tone.
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
Despite it being made into a motion picture movie, which actually did really well for itself I have to say, Lone Survivor cannot be compared to any other book on war, for it draws out one of the most death-defying band of friends ever to be portrayed. As far as must read books written by veterans go, Lone Survivor is probably the best thing you will ever read.
Marcus Luttrell and his three fellow officers journey deep into the Afghanistan mountains on a surveillance mission that was meant to end with the assassination of Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. After being seen and fired upon by enemy soldiers, the four man group pulls back with a fierce survivalist instinct, not once slowing but to engage the enemy at large. This book is spellbinding and can never be topped.
In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of a Lost War by Tobias Wolff
As one of many books concerning the Vietnam War, though of only a few in the must read books written by veterans, Army first lieutenant Tobias Wolff undergoes a disheartening and brutally honest depiction of the Communists' Tet Offensive and other hard pressed examples of combat. From Wolff's point of view, the war is a tragedy, yet everyone else around him seems excited, unfazed, or mentally lost, which disheartens his spirit.
In Pharaoh's Army is an astounding landscape of war, bringing to life Wolff's bitter time on the Vietnam theater. There's emotion on every page, an award winning tale that idolizes courage in the face of the most powerful and grueling evil ever witnessed: the Vietcong. Never once giving up, no matter how bad the struggle became, Wolff brings alive this hard fought war, but it certainly isn't a tale for everyone.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
This award winning tale of valor and hope captures the very essence of brotherly love in combat and the ares with which comradeship help to shape the positive outcomes following war. Tim O'Brien identifies some of the most jaw dropping instances in the Vietnam War, in addition to characterizing his soldiers among the 23rd Infantry Division.
The Things They Carried is a story about friendship in the heart of the Vietnam War. O'Brien identifies some key concepts associated with the infantry men of his group and the mentalities that seemed only to worsen with each passing day. It even draws a valuable glimpse into the lives spent after the war has ended.
Seal Team Six by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
SEAL Team Six is unlike any other war book you have ever read, which is why it's one of the must read books written by veterans. When leaping over boundaries to accompany one of America's most elite forces into the heart of battle, one can't help but wonder how enemies can even defend themselves from these guys.
The book takes a deep analytical look into the war on terrorism and the ways in which our military acts to defend our country through the enlistment of a tactical Navy SEAL sniper. Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin never once let up on the action or tension, as these controversial testimonies give us an inside look at the bowels of our military, in addition to its dark secrets.
Here, Bullet by Brian Turner
Read this book and you will understand why the Iraq War is such a mess, one that we must amend as quick and as pain free as possible. Winning the Beatrice Hawley Award in 2005, Brian Turner's amazing testament of courage in the face of decimating battles are what makes it such an interesting pick on this list of must read books written by veterans.
Infantry team leader Turner writes a book dedicated to the poetry of war. Here, Bullet will keep you reading for hours, with its graphic imagery and well-thought word choice, war has never looked so poetic than in Turner's interesting take on his own experiences. If you like poetry, the Here, Bullet poem is a perfect getaway to the destructive, yet awe inspiring war zones packed with themes of their own, and rich history that can never be erased.
A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo
Written 40 years ago, in 1977, Caputo's memoire is an eyeopening display of the Vietnam War as seen by America's most valiant fighting force, the USMC. Divvied into three parts, A Rumor of War attempts to bring readers to the initial starting point of the war by separating Caputo's decisions and actions in a growing sense of uncertainty. It's one of the must read books written by veterans, because it envisions the US marines in their most challenging battles during the Vietnam War.
The first part of the book examines why Caputo enlisted into the Marines and what drove him to enter into one of the most gruesome wars in American history. The following section discusses his ingratitude in being reassigned to a desk job writing up casualties, but in the third scene of the book, Caputo's grandest vision comes alive in the heart of the battle. Reading this book will convince you of the horrors so expounded upon in the heart of the Vietnam combat.
Angel of Death by John Blehm
Retelling his wartime memories whilst weaving through the aspects most deplorable in PTSD suffrage, Blehm tries to ring out the internal ideas of war and its affect on the mind of a soldier. By preforming this seemingly intrinsic examination on himself, Blehm captures a powerful concept in story telling: digging out your own darkest secrets. The effects of war on the mind are brutal, but Blehm seems to provide a way for all veterans to move beyond their brittled psyches, so as to recapture their normal lives.
Blehm does well in analyzing his own period of PTSD in line with the events he experienced overseas. Aided by his wife, Karen, Blehm adapted a concise look at the ways in which faith and virtue can save the brittled mind, and how hope itself is nothing but a tyrannical monster to the soldiers most affected by this debilitating affliction. For this, the civil war we all must fight with ourselves is most well captured by Blehm's impeccable writing, so if you know anyone suffering with PTSD, Angel of Death is a perfect read for them.
House to House by David Bellavia
In Fallujah, no one is safe. Not even armed forces with tactical grade weapons, as so expertly drawn out in House to House, David Bellavia's account of the 2004 raid involving one of the most catastrophic outcomes to ever occur in America's history of urban battle. Fighting an enemy who had weeks to prepare by leaving explosive kill zone, booby trapped apartments and mapped out kill squads, Bellavia and his Alpha Company descend into a war torn city with nothing but the memories of America blistering in their hearts.
As one of few must read books written by veterans that discusses the dire accounts associated with Fallujah, House to House does wonders in describing these events, specifically in his hour by hour detailed recordings.
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer
Take a tour of the Eastern Front, one of World War II's most gruesome theaters of conflict in this spellbinding self-written account. It involved the European Axis powers fighting the forces of the allies, such as the Soviet Union and Poland. Guy Sajer, a German soldier in the thick of it all, retells his adventures on the Eastern Front in his work The Forgotten Soldier, an easy addition to the list of must read books written by veterans.
I consider this book a kind of love story made in duality, one involving the soldier and his love for war, the other portraying one of the most lethal forces on earth at the time and its own love for war. Since All Quiet on the Western Front, no other book is as telling as The Forgotten Soldier when it comes to the German plight under Nazi control and the power hungry forces of the allies.
We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway
Imagine being surrounded by nearly 2,000 enemy soldiers from all sides as you and your 450 man attack force fight back with all of your might to preserve this great country's freedom. You still won't even feel half of the emotion that outpours from this book. It's one of few must read books written by veterans that discusses, in great detail, the most gruesome battle of the Vietnam War.
Welcome to the Ia Drang Valley, where so many ghosts now still haunt its blood soaked surface. Harold Moore, lieutenant colonel of the US Army, writes a firsthand look of the gruesome firefight, while Galloway, an investigative reporter, unearths the media's portrayal of this stunning display of courage and defiance in the face of evil. Moore's writing, alone, is a testament to the fact that becoming an author is one of the best jobs for veterans, for it gives us all a short window into some of the most disturbingly bloody periods in human history.