Where Cowards Go To Die

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by SoonerAviator, Jul 5, 2022.

  1. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    For those of you who like a portrait of modern warfare, you should check out Where Cowards Go To Die by Ben Sledge. He happens to be a childhood friend of mine who served a few tours in Iraq/Afghanistan doing counterintelligence/PhsyOps, awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Incredibly gifted writer who has a knack for being able to describe a scene so well it feels like you're there. Very raw details, so this isn't a book about the "heros of war" or telling tales of how awesome he and his fellow combat soldiers were. Just a look at what he experienced with some humor/philosophy mixed in. Ben has been engaged with serving veterans ever since he got out of the service, specifically those vets with PTSD.

    https://www.amazon.com/Where-Cowards-Die-Benjamin-Sledge/dp/168451164X
     
  2. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2005
    Messages:
    14,482
    Location:
    Southeast Tennessee

    Display name:
    This page intentionally left blank
    Ok, I just downloaded the first chapter for free (on his web site), and now I’m hooked. Off to buy the book ….
     
  3. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    I'm telling you, his writing style is fantastic isn't it? Heck of a guy to boot.
     
  4. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    As a follow-up to this thread:

    I finished the book in a few evenings, it's only about 280 pages or so. 80% of the book is a recount of events between two tours overseas (1 Iraq, 1 Afghanistan), so sort of a war memoire. There is about 20% of the book focusing on the difficulties with personal relationships and reintegrating into Civilian life after those stints in active war zones. Interlaced throughout the book is some philosophy and religion, mostly recounting his personal upbringing and some of the ways that impacted him while at war as well as his struggle afterwards. He seems to be very humble about his heroism in war, and speaks very matter-of-factly about how medals and "chest candy" is awarded in the military.

    I actually expected some of the stories to be a bit darker than what was described, but there may be a limit to what is able to be divulged without getting into war crimes or serious backlash from military officials. I think this book will resonate with other military vets, but I think it has even better connection to civilians who have no military experience to gain some understanding (even if just a bit) on what type of demons often result from sending a soul to war.
     
    Albany Tom likes this.
  5. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2021
    Messages:
    2,348

    Display name:
    Albany Tom
    Bill Mauldin did a cartoon version back in the 40's, about coming home from WW2. I don't it did well, because it was all comedy back then. Cartoons about the husband digging a slit trench in the lawn because it made him more comfortable. It's kinda dark comedy. "Up Front" was about the war. Nothing gory, but kinda dark, too, go figure.

    https://www.amazon.com/Back-Home-Bill-Mauldin/dp/0891908560

    One of the things about readjustment that I've heard is that it was in some ways easier in the old days, because it took forever for them to be processed and sent back home on ships. So there is some decompression time. These days, from the people I've talked to, you're moving between one country and back home in hours.
     
  6. Pugs

    Pugs Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2018
    Messages:
    1,262
    Location:
    Maryland

    Display name:
    Pugs

    The other thing about then was the sheer number of vets with shared experiences. Back then it was a huge number. Maybe in different theaters of war but similar experiences. These guys coming home today may well end up finding jobs and resettling in places with zero peers that understand and can empathize with their experiences when they need someone to talk to.

    I have a friend of the VN era who wrote his first book simply as therapy to unload a lot of things that really affected his personality through PTSD. He said it was a huge help and really did a lot of good. https://www.amazon.com/Rocky-Raab/e/B002BMOO5C?ref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
     
    Albany Tom likes this.
  7. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    That particular aspect of reintegration was specifically mentioned in Sledge's book. Going from a life of intense adrenaline rush and wartime environment directly to a relatively calm homeland inside the span of a week certainly has phycological impacts.

    Yeah, there's some commentary about that. Coming back home and not having the parades like WW2, but also not having people spit on you and curse at you like Vietnam vets endured. When the Iraq/Afghanistan vets come back, there's nothing. Most Americans kind of "forgot" that there was even a war going on continuously for a decade. Something like less than 1% of the US population fought in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, so it often goes unnoticed by most of the populace. I'm positive that it being more "out of sight, out of mind" results in less attention to PTSD and other considerations for returning military than there should be.
     
  8. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2021
    Messages:
    2,348

    Display name:
    Albany Tom
    Remembering back from Mauldin's book, and discussions from my uncle who came back from European theater, one of the things the ww2 vets suffered from was lack of jobs. I guess in theory they were supposed to get whatever their old jobs were, but that just didn't always work out. So good that there was camaraderie, but bad that there were x hundred thousand people re-entering the job market, looking for housing, etc. My uncle learned a little bit of wrench turning during the war, so after he bought an Indian, and settled down as a mechanic. I think a lot of people got into bikes at that time...and I'm wondering now if it wasn't a little bit of the PTSD/risk thing, combined with just feeling better out in the open and not having to deal with as many rules. Oh yeah, and because bikes were a lot cheaper than cars back then.
     
    SoonerAviator likes this.
  9. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    That was also an issue when may of these vets got out of their service in Iraq/Afghanistan. Many came back after a tour or two right into the 2008/2009 economic crisis when the whole country was going into a recession. So finding a job of ANY sort was difficult, especially if it wasn't a trade.
     
  10. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Messages:
    4,047
    Location:
    Seattle

    Display name:
    Ron Wanttaja
    Also, as Pugs mentions, there were a huge number of vets with similar experiences coming back the same time. "PTSD" wasn't a diagnosis, yet, but with the VFW, American Legion, and other groups you could at least find people who understood what you went through.
    Mauldin Veterans2.jpg
    As a young engineer in the '80s, I had a co-worker who was a Viet vet. Had anger management issues, but I understand a lot better now. He did tend to hang around other engineers who had come back from the war.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
    Albany Tom likes this.
  11. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Messages:
    4,047
    Location:
    Seattle

    Display name:
    Ron Wanttaja
    "The Best Years of Our Lives" has a good example of that. One of the main characters was an Army Air Forces bombardier. Law requires he get his old job back, which is that of a soda jerk.

    And of course, Bill Mauldin had to comment, too....
    Mauldin back in uniform3.jpg
    Ron Wanttaja
     
    Albany Tom likes this.
  12. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2010
    Messages:
    652
    Location:
    Middle Tennessee

    Display name:
    Ernie
    One of the things that affected both Korean and Vietnam veterans is the significant non-acceptance by the WWII generation. "It wasn't a real war" was a common statement. I think more for Korea than SEA. When I got back, circa 1967 my father, not a veteran, was quick to tell me that. Even when I got out in '74 the VFW at least locally, was not welcoming Vietnam vets.
     
    SoonerAviator likes this.
  13. IK04

    IK04 En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,208
    Location:
    Copperas Cove, Texas

    Display name:
    LNXGUY
    PTSD Warning.

    If you know, you know...
     
    Piperonca likes this.
  14. Piperonca

    Piperonca Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2015
    Messages:
    1,594

    Display name:
    Piperonca
    When I came home from Vietnam in 1970, I brought with me a captured SKS rifle, complete with folding bayonet. I had paperwork authorizing hand carrying of the weapon. On my flights, it would be stored up front near the cockpit. My last connection was from SeaTac I think it was, into Memphis. There my parents were waiting on the ramp with my Dad’s PA-23. He had parked very close to the gate. You could do that in those days. Dad had done it many times with his charter service. I was not allowed to leave the airliner until all the pax and crew except for a flight attendant had left. So I sat, and finally she came up and said I could leave, and handed me the weapon. There I was standing tall, with my khaki uniform and shiny aviator wings looking like I hadn’t bathed or shaved for a few days, which was true. Regardless, she gave me the most lingering, silent look and it wasn’t disdain. Of course, I was married, had my family waiting, and couldn’t linger. That was my first welcome home. After that I walked into the Memphis passenger terminal casually carrying the SKS assault rifle, asked how to get onto the ramp, and was courteously shown the door and let out. Nary a protestor in sight. Did get a few glances, though. Can you imagine? Today there would be converging SWAT teams colliding with each other.

    Got in the Apache and flew home with my beloved father who gave me the controls. No PTSD that I can identify, but memories that can only be understood by another VN pilot. Three of my old unit have written their own books. They had a lot of material.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2022
  15. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2012
    Messages:
    14,339

    Display name:
    Velocity173
    Just finished the book tonight. Definitely a good read and he does a fine job of describing his experience without getting too much into military jargon and losing reader interest. Even though his war and mine were very different, I too did one tour in Afghanistan and one in Iraq so it brought back memories.

    Different times and different experiences but we both share roughly the same opinions on the wars. Like him, many of my comrades had families issues (infidelity/divorce) while deployed that affected their ability to do their jobs. And like him, I had friends who returned and had problems adjusting to life at home. Three pilots in particular committed suicide. War affects people in different ways. Unlike the author, I didn’t struggle with the “why are we here” question. I realized early on in Iraq why I was there, accepted that and counted the days til I went home. Fortunately I didn’t have to struggle with the moral dilemma of having to kill another human being like Sledge did. I’m glad to hear that he eventually found peace with those moral conflicts though. Some never find that.
     
  16. Sam D

    Sam D Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Messages:
    1,506
    Location:
    Petaluma, CA

    Display name:
    Sam D
    Thank you for your observations and thank you for your service.
     
  17. pmanton

    pmanton En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Messages:
    3,571
    Location:
    Indian Hills Airpark Salome, AZ

    Display name:
    N1431A
    One of the things that affected both Korean and Vietnam veterans is the significant non-acceptance by the WWII generation. "It wasn't a real war" was a common statement. I think more for Korea than SEA. When I got back, circa 1967 my father, not a veteran, was quick to tell me that. Even when I got out in '74 the VFW at least locally, was not welcoming Vietnam vets.

    I came home a different route than many. I was Med-evacued out of Nam in 68. When I went back to CONUS it was in a plane full of ex medical patients. No one said boo to me.
    No bad words no kind words. I just did my job until my 20 was up and retired.

    Many years later I was at the airport, when a chap noticed my Purple Heart plates and came up to me. He said "Welcome Home". I had thought RVN was way behind me but that brought tears to my eyes.
     
  18. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    I wonder what the statistics are with suicides/difficulty with reintegration between the different service branches. As you mentioned, it's not uncommon that service members have very different viewpoints of the war and what they may have dealt with on a daily basis. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with how close to some of the most gruesome parts of war that ground troops may be exposed to. I won't even venture to guess at how those experiences differ, but I wouldn't be surprised to see higher rates of suicide and such among the Army/Marines versus the Air Force/Navy due to the nature in which they bring "the fight".

    Thanks for your service as well, @Velocity173
     
  19. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    Messages:
    8,085
    Location:
    Broken Arrow, OK

    Display name:
    SoonerAviator
    Can't imagine that period in time when people would have had so much hatred toward our own troops, regardless of what I may have thought of the war. I wasn't alive until the 80s so I have a hard time reconciling the image of people spitting on US soldiers on home soil.

    Thanks for your service as well!
     
  20. pmanton

    pmanton En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Messages:
    3,571
    Location:
    Indian Hills Airpark Salome, AZ

    Display name:
    N1431A
    It's also available on Apple if you like iBooks.
     
  21. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2016
    Messages:
    2,342
    Location:
    Tombstone

    Display name:
    Doc Holliday
    Oh, saw the title, thought it was a discussion of the pilot’s place.

    carry on…..
     
  22. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2012
    Messages:
    14,339

    Display name:
    Velocity173
    The strange thing is, recent studies show that most veteran suicides today aren’t even combat related. But yeah, the kinda stuff that Sledge has seen and the constant threat of injury/ death has got to be a factor. He experienced that on a daily basis while for most of us, the threat wasn’t nearly as great or as often.

    It’s funny, he mentioned in his first tour in Afghanistan at Orgun-E where he said they had rockets on timers. I stopped into Orgun-E once for gas (flight of two) and went to some crappy COP down the road I forget the name of. Anyway, we witnessed that tactic first hand. While on final to the COP, the general’s aide instructs us to orbit for 10 minutes because the “old man” isn’t ready yet. So we do a right 180 and on the way back out I see this puff in the sand. Simultaneously myself and lead transmit “that was a rocket!” The thing flew past us, no telling how close, and seconds later the general’s aide yells “we just took indirect fire!” Sure enough, all that was left was a rocket mount in the sand and not a soul in sight. Which brings up the other thing Sledge mentioned. Those guys were like ghosts.
     
  23. IK04

    IK04 En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2018
    Messages:
    3,208
    Location:
    Copperas Cove, Texas

    Display name:
    LNXGUY
    In Kandahar, we were constantly taking rocket fire from the hills over by Graceland or the Blue Mosque. There was some sophisticated radar aimed at that area and it could determine the POO almost instantly. We had a pair of AH-64s on standby and they would have the coordinates and be off the ground in seconds. Sometimes they would see the dudes, but they would usually be hiding in a hole dug in the dirt.

    We got accustomed to the sound of 122mm Soviet rockets whistling overhead and the sound of razor sharp fragments peppering the roof of our metal hootches...
    When we moved to the Eastern frontier near the Paki border, the rockets moved with us. It was old news for us, but the folks we replaced were spooked.
     
  24. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2012
    Messages:
    14,339

    Display name:
    Velocity173
    Yeah we had the same thing at Bagram and Spiecher. I think it was an old TPS-43 radar. It was useless though. We’d get hit about once a week but it was only one rocket volley. By the time they went out to investigate, they were done. I stopped going to the bunkers after awhile.
     
  25. EvilEagle

    EvilEagle Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    Meridian, ID

    Display name:
    EvilEagle
    I did the same thing at Bagram - if I was in my B hut, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I got caught in a bunker for a couple of hours one night on the way to work when some stuff got lobbed in but the only truly close call I had with indirect fire was a homemade motor from a 107 round hit the airplane next to me on the flight line. It wasn't occupied, we were running in the chocks, the crew chiefs all rolled to the bunker and we were just sitting there with nothing to do. I saw the round hit a blackwater plane down the ramp & break into two pieces. One piece nearly took my crew chief's leg off as he was trotting to the bunker (thankfully it missed him by inches) and the other piece (the bottom plate of the round) flew in the air like a clay pigeon but wobbling so hard I could hear the "whaaaakka-whaaaaka" sound over the props. I saw zero line of sight rate out of that thing but a lot of closure, all I could get out was "brace for impact" but then it dropped and hit the airplane next to us. That got my attention for a little while.
     
    Velocity173 likes this.
  26. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2012
    Messages:
    8,884
    Location:
    KTTA

    Display name:
    Brian Flynn
    That was unkind. Thank you for that on Christmas.
     
  27. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2016
    Messages:
    2,342
    Location:
    Tombstone

    Display name:
    Doc Holliday
    Reading comprehension is difficult huh?

    Capture poa.JPG
     
  28. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Messages:
    9,511

    Display name:
    Dan Thomas
    I read this Canadian book maybe 35 years ago, shortly after it was published:

    [​IMG]

    It's still available. Broadfoot travelled Canada and interviewed any WW2 vets that would talk to him. Some really heartbreaking stories, from discovering that there were no jobs available (most held by guys who didn't sign up to fight) to calling on your beloved only to find that she'd either married someone else a few months before, or she was your wife and had decided to bunk with some other dude. Stories of disfigurement that repelled people. This book shows you how evil some people can be but there are some good stories, too.

    I recently came across a copy of it in a used-book store and bought it. Going to read it again. Most of those vets are all gone now. That war ended 77 years ago. The youngest would be about 95 now.

    This is another good one. Makes you mad.

    [​IMG]

    The cruelty of war, and the corruption of so many personnel. For example, the guys in the supply depots, working indoors, taking the best and warmest clothing for themselves while the guys on the front lines go without, and die.
     
    SoonerAviator and Albany Tom like this.