I read Phil Klay’s story collection Redeployment shortly after seeing the film American Sniper, acting on an impulse to learn more about the modern day warfighter. This book taught me more about the War on Terror and its effects than any documentary or memoir ever could.

The War on Terror cannot be summed up in one narrative. No person’s account is any more or less true than any other’s. Phil Klay, an Iraq vet himself, makes this sentiment the main reason why Redeployment exists. The book shows a multiverse of perspectives that aim for a deeper understanding of this chaotic and strange war in which so many young people found themselves. From front-line Marines to Army artillerymen, to military chaplains and private contractors, Redeployment is a kaleidoscope of viewpoints, each with a different lesson to take away.

Such as this one: There are three things you should never say to a veteran, especially a combat veteran:

“Did you ever kill anyone?”

“Do you have PTSD?”

Or any political opinion whatsoever.

It’s only natural to be curious, but when talking to veterans, it’s often best to dial back the inquiry. In some cases, it may not even be wise to thank them for their service, a phrase some veterans view as ignorant, or worse, self-serving. There are numerous examples of veterans contending with an ignorant, or even apathetic public in this book. Klay authoritatively presents story after story of people who return from under the oppressive Iraqi sun to the more temperate climates of Hometown, USA. They find their lives forever altered by their experiences, and often return to people who simply can't understand what they went through.

In one story, a PsyOps Marine from the Second Battle of Fallujah encounters a stereotypically liberal college girl. In another, a ditzy student chases a “human interest” piece by asking a veteran to recount the moment his convoy was IED’d. There’s a story about a veteran seeking a career in the New York financial industry surrounded by an apathetic public swarming around him in bars and boardrooms.

In other stories, Klay offers glimpses of FOB life between missions. In the entire book, there’s maybe two instances of actual combat. Descriptions of gunfire and engagements are less important to the book than the emotional impact they have. Most of the narrative is spent in the men’s heads. The stories here are neither fictional nor nonfictional, evoking comparisons to Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam classic The Things They Carried. My personal favorite is “Prayer in the Furnace,” a story about an Army chaplain contending with the existential crises of both the men in his unit and his own faith. Another notable detouring chapter is “Money as a Weapons System,” a dark and comedic take on the USA’s convoluted attempts to democratize Iraqi communities.

As a collection, Redeployment is about the young people who go to war because they were ordered to, not necessarily because they felt a patriotic fervor that drove them there. If memory serves me right, I can recall no reference to 9/11 or anyone enlisting as a result of it. The all-volunteer military is on full display here, but there’s less emphasis on why these people served and more on what their service did to their souls. It’s the kind of book that every America-loving, patriotic GovX member should read, if only for the humbling effect it has on national pride. It’s neither pro-war nor anti-war, and it’s not a massive thousand-page treatise on armed conflict like War and Peace. Instead, Redeployment is a weekend read which uses meditative vignettes to attempt to understand a war which continues to elude explanation.

Have you read Redeployment? What did you think of it? I'm very interested to read your comments below to see how the book impacted you. Don’t forget to click “Reply” if you want to call attention to a particular member’s comment.

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Tomas A.

5/29/2015 5:26 PM

I joined the army on purpose to go to war. I got what i was looking for. Its tiring and people get killed. But its mind blowing and the realest atmosphere. Peace and sense is all i want now.

Bennie D.

5/31/2015 4:14 PM

I agree with your 3 questions not to ask a veteran, as I had 3 deployments with C, Co. 3rd battalion 75th Rangers. I find it hard to try and answer any questions about what went on or what I had done in either Iraq or in Afghanistan due to the reasons for I feel that if anyone has to ask t he questions listed then even if I did or would ever answer them they would not or could not even begin to understand what I or my team members had to go through just to make it through the day let alone thru the rest of our deployment. I feel that the person who would ask any veteran that question really would not like or really understand the answers that they would receive if we were to give them a true response to the questions that they asked. I feel that all of the veterans that ever deployed to country is in titled to the respect of not ever having to be put into that situation to ever having to answer the questions. I also feel that if the person who would ask those questions wherever in our place would take it as a sort of slap in the face. So please don't take me wrong for the answers that I'm giving hear because for a lot of Veterans all we want is to move on with whatever life that we have left and try with a lot of help from friends and family and sometimes a lot of help from outside groups just so we can just make it one more day. I would also like to thank all of the veterans for all that you have given. God bless all of you.

Michael O.

6/5/2015 10:36 PM

Although I am not a Military Veteran I did spend 22 years in the "concrete jungle" here at home as a police officer. I just want to give a heartfelt Thank You to all the men and women who are or were in our Military at home or overseas. Thank you again for your sacrifices.