Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “The Wise Family” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.
We watched “The Sands of Iwo Jima” starring John Wayne/…And I thought about that movie, asked if it was that way/ He just shook his head and smiled at me in such a loving way/As he thought about some friends he will never see again/He said ‘I never saw John Wayne on the sands of Iwo Jima’ – “Sands of Iwo Jima,” Drive By Truckers
On December 30th, 2009, I was in a hotel room in San Francisco watching CNN when news of a bombing in Afghanistan ticked across the screen. A few weeks passed before I learned that a good friend from the Navy, Jeremy Wise, had been killed along with several others by a suicide bomber during a CIA operation in northern Afghanistan.
It has been several years since Jeremy died, and in that time Jeremy’s brother Ben tragically died from wounds sustained during combat in Afghanistan. Since then, I have tried desperately to make sense of it all, as well as to understand the weight of the absolute grief that has accompanied it. I mourn deeply for his family, as I do for the families of all those who have given their lives in service of our nation.
Even though I have sat with my feelings for some time, most days I don’t feel closer to knowing how I feel. It is not only in those final moments of his tragic death that have I been so lost, but also in the untold moments of his courageous life that we will never know. The life left un-lived is where the heaviness of my grief begins to feel most burdensome.
The past few weeks have stirred many emotions in the veteran community. The media has focused greatly on the fall of Fallujah, the release of the memoir by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as well as the premiere of Lone Survivor. Wrapped up in all of this, it seems, have been naïve questions and assertions about whether the staggering loss of military and civilian lives and the destabilization of Iraq’s security somehow serve as evidence that these wars were a colossal mistake. I don’t know if any of that is true.
What I do know to be true is whenever I think of these wars, I think of men like Jeremy and I remember their courage. It is from their courage that I draw my lessons. The willingness to lay down one’s own life so that others might live is all I have every really learned –and probably all that I will every truly know – about war. And, for me, that is enough.
I dedicate this week’s round-up to the memory and courage of Jeremy Wise, Ben Wise, Sean Carson, and to all those who have died in service of our Nation since 9/11. Fair winds and following seas.
Here we go.
1. From the Washington Post comes a difficult but necessary story on the sacrifice of my fallen friend and his family: “One family, two sacrifices: In war, Wise family would pay an awful price”
2. Elliot Ackerman, Silver Star recipient and writer, explores the question of whether or not the battles in Iraq were worth it for the New Republic.
3. Gregory D. Johnson examines the national security implications of the ‘Authorization for the Use of Military Force‘ has had for the United States since 9/11 in BuzzFeed.
4. This story, originally published in May 2013, is a disturbing look at a troubled vet turned bank robber. It’s worth revisiting and another example of BuzzFeed‘s quality journalism.
5. From the Daily Beast come an essay by Benjamin Busch, veteran, actor and author, and his take on the difference between the facts and fiction in the movie, Lone Survivor.
6. Lea Carpenter reviews Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp for the New York Times.
7. The ‘most interesting man in the world’ is turning his attention to land mine removal, according to this article in The Boston Globe.
Bonus Link: Check out Words After War writing instructor Matt Gallagher discussing Iraq on CBS.
Enjoy the long weekend.