Written by Paul Silver

In 2008 2-16 Infantry, part of the 1st Infantry Division stationed out of Fort Riley, Kansas deployed to Baghdad Iraq. For many of the Soldiers in the Battalion it was not their first trip to a combat zone. In fact, Finkle was with the unit and wrote the book The Good Soldiers about the combat operations undertaken by the men of 2-16. Thank You For Your Service, however, picks up with the after-war. It begins with Staff Sergeant Adam Schumman, who is waiting for a helicopter in Baghdad Iraq. Schumman is wounded. His evacuation from theater is deemed urgent. However, Schumman hasn’t been shot, no IED has detonated under his truck. By all accounts he is in good physical health. However, Schumman has given up on living. The stress of over 1,000 days of combat have finally caught up with him and now the Army has made the decision to send him home. Over the next 1,000 days Schumman and his wife Sascha will fight a new series of battles to finally bring Adam home.

From there Finkle takes the reader on an emotional tour de force examining the lives of Soldiers, widows and family members all of whom, like Schumman, are engaged in the battle that follows a return from combat. Through their struggles he paints the narrative of the approximately 500,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have returned with either PTSD or TBI, the “hallmark wounds” of the War on Terrorism. Finkle gets inside of the Soldier’s marriages and mental health treatment. He documents their nightmares and insecurities. He juxtaposes all of these with the five words most often uttered by civilians who don’t know how to engage with veterans, “thank you for your service.” What follows then is a portrait of veterans issues more broadly as told by the veterans themselves. Finkle’s book gives urgency to Veteran’s issues and underscores the damage of combat. He does it not just through Schumman’s PTSD, but through other men in his unit and through their families. It is the story of the civil-military divide and the war that in many cases has already been forgotten and uneasily brushed aside with a brusque sentence, “thank you for your service.”

As a veteran myself, I read this book and was mesmerized by it, I found the author to truly understand the plight of returning Soldiers. He captured their grief and their alienation and makes it real for the reader. As a student in the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Clinic, I feel that this book needs to be read by incoming students. It is the sort of material that makes the issues students are about to engage with real. The emotionally wrenching anecdotes give clarity and focus the talking about issues such as PTSD, TBI and survivor’s guilt. The book does not shy away from the issues at any point. It shows the turmoil of Schumman’s perceived failure and weakness on his relationship with his family; an issue that is certainly germane to clinic intake interviews. Furthermore, the book does a fantastic job at underscoring that though a veteran’s wounds may not be visible, it does not mean that they do not exist and that they are not debilitating.

 

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