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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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VI. Conclusion


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Now the dark begins to rise Save your breath, it’s far from over Leave the lost and dead behind Now’s your chance to run for cover […] I will not bow! I will not break! – Breaking Benjamin “I Will Not Bow”

VI.   Conclusion

In its song “I Will Not Bow,” the American band “Breaking Benjamin” gives voice to an individual’s thoughts, it appears, struggling to come to terms with living under great pressure. Although not referring to a combat veteran’s struggle with his “experience” of war, the band, nevertheless, inspires in their audience associations to war and combat leading, for example, to numerous self-created music videos uploaded to From a martial perspective, “I Will Not Bow” gives voice to a common – even if unacknowledged – message, similar to Eddie Vedder’s and Ben Harper’s “No More War” (Epigraph of Chapter Five) and Brendan James’s “Hero’s Song” (Epigraph of Chapter Four): war does leave its mark on its participants, civilian and military alike, making a return to a pervious state of mind, untouched by combat, simply impossible.

Throughout this book, I referred to several movies and American TV programs which concentrate on soldiers and Marines, either still on active duty or upon their return to a civilian world. Similar to songs briefly touched on above, these films and programs focus on the problems a veteran faces upon re-entering the civilian sphere. Repeatedly, these TV programs, e.g., NCIS, the Army Wives and others, put...

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