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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 Five. Welcome to My Homecoming


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What he has seen is hard to believe And it does not good to just pray He asks of us to stand And we must end this war today […] Yeah, nothing’s too good for a veteran Yeah, this is what they say So nothing is what they will get And there’s no American way – Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper “No More War”

Chapter Five.   Welcome to My Homecoming96

The epigraph selected to head this chapter is quoted from a song used in the soundtrack for the documentary Body of War by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue. The movie follows Tomas Young, at the time of filming twenty-five years old, who is paralyzed due to a severed spinal cord. He was wounded during the first week of his deployment to Iraq. The documentary’s homepage notes:

Body of War is Tomas’ coming home story as he evolves into a new person, coming to terms with his disability and finding his own unique and passionate voice against the war. […] Body of War unfolds on two parallel tracks. On the one hand, we see Tomas evolving into a powerful voice against the war as he struggles to deal with the complexities of a paralyzed body. (

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