Walking the Tiger’s Path: A Soldier’s Spiritual Journey in Iraq
Author: Paul M. Kendel
Publisher: Tendril Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 320 pages
Paul M. Kendel (SSG Ret.) deployed with his National Guard unit out of Georgia to Iraq in 2005 hoping to use his knowledge of that land to bridge the gap between American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. However, the realities of war crushed his idealism when his buddies began dying at the hands of the enemy six weeks after their arrival. Eventually, his ongoing concern for the Iraqi people alienated some of his comrades, and he felt the sting of growing conflict within himself.
Turning to the books on Buddhist teachings he had brought with him, he found solace in the written words, but he longed for more. On a whim, he emailed Shambhala International and requested assistance. An unexpected response and ongoing support from Buddhist teacher and meditation instructor Margot Neuman helped him to retain a sane and humble humanity in a situation that often plummeted into lethal insanity.
This book addresses the horrors of war from an extraordinary human perspective. SSG. Kendel did not lose his compassion in the face of grave risk, nor did he endanger fellow soldiers while he remained true to himself--rare feats in our violent world.
Kendel’s story is beyond unique. How can one “kill and pray” and maintain one’s own sanity and humanity. War is not glorious, rewarding or any other upbeat metaphor, war is truly “Hell.”
Rarely do civilians have an opportunity to see the true nature of war. Not the five o’clock version, but the reality. Take the time and read his story and you will understand a number of things, but PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), is my focus.
A Chef’s Cauldron! Place anyone in an unfamiliar environment throw in a dash of uncertainty, fear, and enormous stress, a pinch of unknown good and bad guys that are armed, and you have a real live stew of danger. This danger is both physical and mental. Society seems to feel a soldier can return from war and simply turn that “engine” off. He/she is not a car or television. Watching the evening news does not make you a combat veteran.
That he was able to maintain some compassion amid this quagmire speaks well of his inner self. Is Kendel a hero? Perhaps not in the sense one might identify with an Audie Murphy, but heroic to be sure in how he came to deal with all that was going on within and around him.
A soldier with conviction amid the brutality of war is worth the read. Walking the Tiger’s Path is such a story.
Reviewed by: jim greenwald (August 2011)