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War Experience and Trauma in American Literature

A Study of American Military Memoirs of «Operation Iraqi Freedom»

Lena-Simone Günther

Walt Whitman wrote: «The real war will never get into the books.» To this day, however, American soldier-authors write about their war and translate traumatic experiences into language accessible to the reader. Veterans of the recent Iraq war do not differ here. Joining the post-draft American military, the selected soldier-authors are thrust into a conflict which soon exceeded governmental, military and public expectations. Focusing on core elements which link the selected military memoirs of Nathaniel Fick, Colby Buzzell, Clint Van Winkle, John Crawford and Matt Gallagher together, this book follows the soldier-authors’ process of soldierization, their loss of innocence, moral responsibility and, finally, coping mechanisms for traumatic experiences sustained in combat.
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Chapter Two. Be All You Can Be – And More

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Now you remember what the draftman said, Nothing to do but stay in bed, You’re in the Army now, Oh, oh you’re in the Army now – Status Quo, “In the Army Now” (1986)

Chapter Two.   Be All You Can Be – And More

In 2006, coinciding strategically with Veterans Day, the United States Army changed its slogan “An Army of One” to the seemingly more attractive and martial “Army Strong” hoping to improve its recruitment numbers even during the problematic and dangerous times of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War on Terror in general. According to the newspaper USA Today, Lieutenant General Robert L. Antwerp confirms that negative news from combat zones, particularly Iraq, deter young Americans from joining the military (Antwerp “Army launching ’Army Strong’ ad campaign” USAtoday.com). Aiming to define the “warrior spirit” of its forces, the Army commercial quotes the Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of “strong.” A booming and omniscient male voice recites:

Webster defines strong as having great physical power, as having moral or intellectual power, as striking or superior of its kind. But with all due respect to Webster, there’s strong, and then there’s Army Strong. (United States Army Advertisement “Army Strong” 2006)

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