In his breakout best seller, The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger created "a wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea and the often futile attempts of humans to withstand it" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, Junger turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat - the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another.
His on-the-ground account follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a daily basis.
In listening to Sebastian Junger read War, the book he both experienced and wrote, you will periodically find yourself standing or sitting stock-still while the powerful narrative sinks in. Junger does not pull any punches in his writing, and his reading carries with it the anxiety and the pure fear he experienced embedded on five occasions with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. This six-mile long valley "the Afghanistan of Afghanistan”, according to Junger has sustained 70% of all U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Junger’s respect for the soldiers of U.S. Army’s 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade can be heard as he contrasts the jocularity of the men (the platoon was all male) and periods of stultifying boredom with the split-second responses every soldier maintains to react to snipers, ambushes, and IED attacks.
Junger tells of the bravado and the extraordinary human connection to one another the soldiers display. Each soldier and even Junger knows that the next instant might bring death. That knowledge is ever-present as Junger describes surprise attacks by Taliban and on Taliban with vivid intensity.
Junger’s reading lets you join in on the soldiers’ humor that strengthens bonds and, for the moment, relieves the reality of life in one of the world’s most unforgiving terrains, even without a vicious enemy potentially lurking behind the next boulder. His tone captures the men’s loneliness and the existential angst inevitably affecting them all until the next firefight comes as most of them do, in an instant and seldom with warning.
Listeners will enjoy Junger’s description of the physically huge soldier, Vandenberg, who has his fellow soldiers in awe of his sheer bulk and strength. Vandenberg is a source of good-humored testing and honest admiration, and you can hear the catch in Junger’s voice as he tells of Vandenberg’s nearly fatal wound and the tenderness with which the soldier reached from the cot where he lay to grab the hand of his also severely wounded buddy, while both waited to be helicoptered away for more intensive medical care.
Junger describes the brutality of war experienced by young American soldiers and shares examples of bravery and camaraderie that occur on almost a daily basis amidst deprivations unimaginable to civilians which will make you want to stop every person in military uniform to thank them for their service. You’ll also want to thank Sebastian Junger for writing War and— most especially for reading it with honesty and compassion. Carole Chouinard
"Junger mixes visceral combat scenes-raptly aware of his own fear and exhaustion-with quieter reportage and insightful discussions of the physiology, social psychology, and even genetics of soldiering. The result is an unforgettable portrait of men under fire." (Publishers Weekly)
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Why we fight re-visited
- Jeffrey Dame