Walking the Tigers Path
Author: Paul M. Kendel
Publisher: Tendril Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 320 pages
Deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit out of Georgia, the author hoped to use his knowledge of the Midddle East and Islam (possessing an M.A. in the subject) to bridge a gap between American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. However, the realities of war quickly challenged his idealism. On a whim, he emailed the Shambhala Buddhist community, finding unexpected guidance in retaining his humanity and compassion as he faced the lethal insanity of war. Upon his return home he faced more challenges with the loss of his mother as well as the end of his marriage. The book is both a military memoir and a story of spiritual transformation.
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: Greenwald, Jim (2011)