Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013 by LibraryAdministration
“Soldier’s heart”, “shell shock”, “battle fatigue”, the “thousand-yard stare”. The difficult adjustment to civilian life required by soldiers returning from deployment is not a new phenomenon. However, several factors distinguish today’s veterans from their predecessors. Our world has changed, the threats of the 21st century are different, and today’s battles require new ways of fighting. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by dangers ensuing from guerilla warfare and terrorist actions, including insurgency, roadside bombs, and the blurring of “civilian bystander” and “enemy combatant”.
Due to multiple deployments and the nature of urban warfare, many experts think that a much higher percentage of returning troops are suffering from debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today than in prior wars. The most common injury in these conflicts has been traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by the widespread incidence of improvised explosive devices. According to the Mayo Clinic, traumatic brain injury occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction. With TBI, the brain is “bruised”, and while there may not be obvious physical signs of damage, sufferers may later exhibit subtle behavioral changes, such as increased impulsivity, anxiety, and aggression—also the hallmarks of PTSD.
In The Long Walk, Brian Castner provides a visceral depiction of life in this new war theater, but also recounts his painful transition back to the home front. Upon their return, many veterans are reluctant to seek help or may not find help readily available, so their battle is not over. In The Long Walk, we see that the terrible toll on his psychological well-being prompted Castner to find ways to cope, and his experience gives us a vivid perspective on the invisible wounds of war.
Share Your Thoughts
While reading The Long Walk, did you learn anything new about the types of missions conducted by US forces in Iraq? Did anything surprise you about them? Did you find any specific incident particularly disturbing, and why?
Do you feel that Castner was wrong to send his team to Baghdad to get the robots fixed without the permission of his commanding officer? Why or why not?
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