In The Long Walk, Brian Castner writes about his three Middle East deployments while in the Air Force, during which he became commander of an explosive ordnance disposal unit. He and his squad endured the extreme tension and danger of bomb removal in an active combat zone. Castner now lives near Buffalo with his wife and four sons, but the memories of war still linger. After he returned home, he describes sitting at the top of the stairs holding his rifle, protecting his family from intruders. In one scene, he weeps quietly as he helps his seven-year-old son get ready for a hockey game; the routine feels too similar to suiting up a colleague in a bomb suit.
About The Long Walk, Castner says, "I wrote a coming-of-age story the way a million of them have been written. Young man goes off to war and comes back different." Witnessing babies killed by bomb blasts and other horrors of war causes debilitating after effects. At one point, a military “shrink” reassures Castner that his reactions to his experience are not PTSD, they're “just human”. What are initially believed to be the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are apparently those of traumatic brain injury caused by repeated exposure to blast waves.
After returning from his last deployment, Castner went to work for a civilian contractor, conducting training for the military in tactical bomb disposal. But he notes, “How do you teach someone what it's going to feel like to pick up a child's liver off the ground? You can't."
In The Long Walk, Brian Castner makes great strides in bridging the gap between civilians and those experiencing the scars of war, and upon reading the book, other veterans can know that they are not alone.
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