Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends
Author: Mike Sager
Publisher: Da Capo Press (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 261 pages
Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell prided himself on being a hard-core Marine—a patriotic Devil Dog on his third tour of Iraq. Then his brain was shredded with mortar shrapnel.
Today, Maxwell has a large angry scar on the left side of his head. He forgets words, his wife has to read to him, and he drags one foot when he walks. Yet he works twelve-hour days as commander of the Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. For these warriors, Iraq and Afghanistan will never quite be in the past. And the struggle never ends.
Other stories in Wounded Warriors depict life inside an L.A. crack gang, ex-pat Vietnam War veterans in Thailand, and five days in Las Vegas with basketball anti-hero Kobe Bryant—all of it captured stylishly by the writer who has been called “the beat poet of American journalism.”
MWSA 2008 Founder's Award
When I got my hands on a copy of author Mike Sager’s book Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends I was not expecting powerful stories of such diversity. The treatment he gives the book and how he writes about such seemly different people somehow all perfectly fit into the author’s theme that “In one way or another, every one of us is a wounded warrior. All of us are engaged in wars, large and small, that may last forever.”
Being a Vietnam veteran and a recipient of a Purple Heartfor wounds received in combat, I was somewhat skeptical and a little offended by Mike Sager’s comparisons between actual wounded soldiers and people like Kobe Bryant, Al Sharpton or Marlon Brando. So, I began reading his book looking to find fault with his metaphorical thread of comparisons. However, I found myself totally engrossed in how he tied it all together emotionally and even spiritually at some base invisible level.
Sager starts right off with huge emotional chapter dealing with wounded veterans from our present day wars in the Middle East. He compassionately, and without personal prejudices, manages to gently and psychologically dissect what he sees and senses. He brings his points of view into the story of these men without showing anything more then their own behaviors and words. The raw pains and the emotions are all there. It is a powerful tale of a group of marines baring their souls to the author on a military base in a special unit set aside for wounded warriors. For some people this chapter will open their eyes and their hearts to what these men are going through. If this chapter does not move you then nothing will.
I found my own personal interest peaking when Sager profiles a group of old Vietnam veterans living in Thailand. It seems that for these men the wars within have never really emotionally ended. They live out their lives as expatriates; away from home. Between the booze, the freewheeling sex, and macho encounters with fellow veterans and others, the author picks up on the loneliness and sadness that haunts these men still. These men are in many ways damaged goods. Their souls are still in pain and at war.
I found the stories about Al Sharpton and other non-combatants to be a huge surprise. The author enables the reader to see through all the public hype about these men. He gives us portraits of real human beings with flesh and blood emotional issues; and yes, with their own inner wars!
This book may add some new insights to your thinking, but the bottom-line is that it is entertaining and fascinating. It draws the reader into these lives; at the end of the book, you will find yourself changed in some way. Call it empathy, or just a compassionate response to have seen and become aware of another man’s pain and suffering; but you will remember these men that you read about long after putting this book to rest.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2008)