This book is a follow-up to David Finkle’s The Good soldiers, which followed soldiers deployed in Iraq during the Surge. Thank You For Your Service follows a group of soldiers, wives and widows after returning from war. As devastating as The Good Soldiers was, this book is twice that.
The stories in the book are personal. The soldiers have varying degrees of issues – some physical, some mental. One of the soldiers comes home with PTSD. He doesn’t have physical injuries and he has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that his injuries are inside his head. He is suicidal. He is depressed. He can’t find work. Just when you think the consequences of the war are going to swallow him whole, an Army worker finds a PTSD program for him in California (he lives in Kansas). His wife does not want him to go and does not handle his being gone well. She also does not handle his being home well. She too is filled with rage and anger at what their life has become. The constant threat of losing houses and cars and dealing with raising a child practically alone is enough to make anyone mad.
They are just one couple in the book. David Finkle does an excellent job in a short book of putting the reader in the shoes of the soldiers and the families. The widow who can’t move on. The soldier who is arrested after domestic violence. The solider who is permanently disfigured by the war. The bureaucracy that would make a person with normal coping mechanisms want to pull their hair out.
The lesson through it all for me, was we don’t treat our soldiers well. They are fighting in or have fought in wars that we don’t talk about. don’t think about and that don’t affect our day-t0-day lives. We make it hard for them to get help and deny there are problems. We are destroying a generation of loyal men and women who served their country at great sacrifice. The next time you see a vet and want to thank them for their service, do more than that. Find an organization to support. The Wounded Warrior Project or the Pat Tillman Foundation.
While you don’t have to read the Good Soldiers to read this book, I highly recommend reading both to give a full picture of war and its aftermath.