Finally got my copy of the The Silence of War today. I opened up the box it was in and sequestered myself in my library. I did not know what to expect. The book is about an embedded Law enforcement professional who was with our battalion in Afghanistan. This was our war as seen and told through his own eyes.
Three and a half hours later I finished and put it down. An hour later I realized I was staring at the wall. It felt like only a few seconds had passed. I hadn't moved but my mind had decided to go to a place that I purposely try to ignore. It had decided to take a trip into my past.
As the days continue on and more and more people move on with their lives, and rightfully so, it is becoming more clear to me that history will judge the "conflicts" in Iraq and Afghanistan as abject failures in hindsight. I love history and consider myself a student of it. And history can be brutally honest. It can also be very abstract at times. People, names, personal struggles, doubts, and fears all disappear into hard statistics and facts. I am also a firm believer that history is our greatest teacher. Something that we rarely pay attention to these days it seems like.
I figure that in a generation or even less all the struggles and hard lessons we learned from OIF/OEF will be forgotten. Just like we forgot the lessons from Vietnam. The best way to combat that loss is through stories. For some that is the only way their voice will be heard. That their struggles are remembered and taken into account. That is what this book is to me. A retelling of our campaign in Afghanistan in 2008. Not to simply tell a story but so others can know the men who fought there. What we were thinking. What we hoped for and feared. The human element that is quickly forgotten or never known by the vast majority of Americans. And it sucks to be forgotten about. Not for the personal accolades but the frustration of knowing that our lessons will not be remembered. That current and future Marines are going to be slugging it out with s***heads and dying in conflicts and brushfire wars that few understand and no one wants.
Terry Mcgowan did a service for our battalion and to future generations. He told our story and for most of us....that is all we get. It is a further credit to our severe isolation over there in the fact that I never got to converse with McGowan. I regret that. I met him once stateside and may have even shaken hands with him but after that we deployed. That was it. He was largely with our 1st platoon. I was with 3rd. Sister platoons in platoon FOBs. Only a few dozen miles apart. Felt like about 3 planets away. We were tiny little islands of Americans trying to survive in a sea of hatred.
So thank you Terry Mcgowan. You had the opportunity to spread our tale. Even though it stirred up old painful memories it all had to be said and done.
On the literary side Mr. McGowan disseminates his memories in a very clear and succinct way. The story is smooth and free flowing with no jarring interruptions and technical jargon. This is a man telling you his story as though you were sitting next to him at a bar with a beer in hand. It is very personable and easy to connect with. This is not a lecture and this is not a "I've been there and was a badass" kind of story. Far from it. This is a human telling of his struggles and triumphs in a place that is filled with misunderstanding, violence, and mindless hatred.
I highly recommend this book to all who have a passing interest in military matters or the human psyche in difficult situations. Or if you simply wish to read a damn good book overall.