Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Heartbreaking Memoir from An EOD Officer Who Served in Iraq - "The Long Walk" by Brian Castner

My heart ached for Brian Castner as I read his all-too-real account of life after returning from his deployment in Kirkuk, Iraq.  He pulls no punches in describing his life as the officer in charge of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, or the equally explosive life he lives now back home battling what he calls "THE CRAZY" - a combination of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and generalized anxiety that haunts him most of every day.

Perhaps the most poignant feature of this very intimate memoir is that it paints in vivid colors a picture of the lifelong price that warriors and their families pay for the service that they render in combat.  A recent Newsweek article links PTSD closely with the experience of killing or being close to violent or sudden death, rather than the fear that was long thought to be the predominant factor.  This book adds anecdotal evidence to that theory.

The author summarizes his situation and that of countless thousands of other vets in these words:

"My wife is alone in our full bed, too.  Her husband, the father of her children, never came back from Iraq.  When I deployed the first time she asked her grandmother for advice.  He grandfather served in Africa and Europe in World War II.  Her grandmother would know what to do.

'How do you live with him being gone?  How do I help him when he comes home,' my wife asked.

'He won't come home,' her grandmother answered.

'The war will kill him one way or the other.  I hope for you that he dies while he is there,' her grandmother continued, 'otherwise the war will kill him at home.  With you.'

My wife's grandfather died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor, long before she was born.  It took a decade or two for World War II to kill him.  When would my war kill me?" (Page 87)

Many of us who did not serve in the military wonder how we can begin to understand the struggles of those who have served.  This book adds another layer to the long process of understanding and being willing to listen and to help.

It was an act of courage for the author to lay his soul and psyche bare in these 200 pages.  He is courageous and deserves our thanks and respect.

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