Here is an anthology that reveals the many faces of war: the grim, the tragic, the lighthearted, and the humorous. Through fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, award-winning writers provide a kaleidoscope of images spanning 150 years from the American Civil War to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. From Russell Reece’s chilling tale about fishing for dead bodies in the Mekong Delta to Nicholas Samaras’s final declaration, “All war stories are love stories,” we examine both the known and the more obscure facets of armed conflict. In “Ghost,” a poor farm boy undergoes an entire personality change as he becomes a cold-blooded killer for the military. In “Insanity is Contagious,” a wife struggles to keep her own sanity while dealing with a husband’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In “Buchenwald Diary,” a soldier tours a German concentration camp and is stunned to find little difference between the dead and some of the living. And in “Abu Ghraib Suggests the Isenheim Altarpiece,” the issue of American torture is questioned.
Those who have experienced war will recognize much of what resides between these pages. Those who have not will gain new insight into this age-old matter.
War Anthology Reviews
“In the end, all war stories are love stories.” This eloquent line provides a fitting end to a remarkable collection of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose inspired by theaters of combat over a century and a half and in every corner of the world, and it articulates a central truth that reverberates throughout the volume. As is true of love, moments of terrible beauty, horrific pain, transcendent wonder, awe, and longing permeate the pieces gathered together here, demonstrating without a doubt that even as all wars are alike, the voices that emerge from them are unique. Like the many facets of a fine jewel, they showcase hard but exquisite realities of the lives of human beings – and sometimes rather inhuman ones – during times of conflict and after. Veterans may find affirmation here; others may find illumination. All thoughtful readers will discover a treasure trove of beautiful, provocative writing.
Christine Doyle, PhD, Professor of English
Central Connecticut State University
If war is too important to be left to generals, our national memories of war are too important to be left solely to those who did not fight. This collection gives readers vivid insight into the memories, emotions, and scars of those we’ve sent to fight. Through fiction, memoirs, and poetry, the contributors explore and explain what comes with them when warriors return home.
John Day Tully, PhD
Co-editor, Understanding and Teaching the Vietnam War
Exerpts from A War Veterans Anthology
OSAMA’S LAST PORNO FILM
Henry F. Tonn
Reuters revealed that an “extensive” collection of pornographic material was
found among Osama bin Laden’s effects by Navy Seals.
Osama bin Laden was engrossed in his favorite pornographic film-a beautiful blonde with swaying bosoms administering an enthusiastic blow job to a well-endowed young man-when he heard firecrackers going off near his bedroom. His brow creased. These Pakistani children are becoming more like Americans every day, he thought. Where are their parents?
He was pondering which of his three wives would be willing to imitate the blonde porno star’s ministrations when the fireworks exploded even nearer to his room. This was most peculiar. Had one of the twenty-three children in the compound got hold of something expressly forbidden? They shouldn’t be attracting unwanted attention to the house.
He returned to the blonde’s bobbing head.
Suddenly, a violent explosion occurred right down the hallway, followed by gunfire.
A thousand plagues, Osama thought. People are always interrupting me when I’m really busy.
He put the remote on freeze and wandered into the hallway to investigate the disturbance.
AMPUTATED BONES AND VOMIT
During the First Battle of Bull Run, Stuart’s new cavalry regiment was held in reserve, well behind the front lines. Between his unit and the battleground a school house had been converted into a field hospital. Doctors cut and sawed off legs and arms by the dozen, tossing them aside, until soon the area resembled a hog slaughter house. Eventually the number of body parts grew so large that the staff was forced to open two windows in the rear of the hospital and throw the limbs into large buckets located just outside. In the late afternoon Stuart was ordered to re-deploy his troops closer to the lines, and move up at a walk. The path took his troops behind the hospital where in formations of two the men got a long, slow view of the filled buckets of horror. Not yet engaged in battle, they were already being confronted by the remains of war. The sight and smell of decaying flesh in the heat of day caused the men to throw up, throw up over their pants legs, into their boots, and on their horses. The conflict would last four more years and millions of screams. To the soldiers it would be four lifetimes.
Shikata ga nai
August 15, 1945
Each day in school we vow to die
for Hirohito, file past his icon with eyes cast down
as if nine suns might blind us. Even in dreams
his white wings blaze. When we hear his voice
–an ordinary voice like any other –
It can’t be helped
we are struck dumb except for Rika who mimics it exactly
–a twelve year old in tattered shorts
speaks with the voice of a deity–
we fear rutted stones in a dismal swamp,
fear tears slipping into rank tea,
–fear fear itself–
Broke like bent reeds,
we wish to extinguish ourselves
as the golden kite
to the quivering earth,
as the chrysanthemum’s petals crimp brown.