Reporter David Finkel, who was embedded with an infantry battalion during the surge in Iraq, has just published a book called “Thank You For Your Service,” which demonstrates how empty that phrase can sound to a soldier.
“They just didn’t, they couldn’t have known what was going to happen,” says Finkel. “And of course, their families couldn’t have known either. The beautiful part of the books is how everybody from the top down is trying to heal and get better.”
In telling the stories of the men he was embedded with after they’ve been home for two years, Finkel found that in many cases, the search for peace in their own lives is as elusive as trying to establish peace in Iraq was. They find themselves in what he calls the “After War.”
“There is a line in the book, that is, if the truth of war is here as if the guy next to you, the truth of the “After War” is that you’re pretty much on your own,” he explains.
The phrase “Thank You for Your Service,” he says, is frequently mocked by soldiers and veterans because it glosses over what it feels like to leave a world of constant violence. (It’s) a world where your closest friends could be taken from you in an instant and then (you) return to a world where you’re surrounded by friends and loved ones who can never understand because they haven’t been through it, but who expect you to be the same person you were.
“And now you’re home. And now those drum beats are over. The weird music isn’t going on anymore. And it’s time to sort it out,” says Finkel. “That’s what’s going on now.”