There’s no real homecoming for many of our veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may go through the motions of daily life in their hometowns, but the terrible sights and sounds of war are still fresh in their minds. This empathic, inside look into the lives of our combat veterans reveals the lingering impact that the longest wars in our nation’s history continue to have on far too many of our finest young people. Basing her account on numerous interviews with veterans and their families, the author examines the factors that have made these recent conflicts especially trying. A major focus of the book is the extreme duress that is a daily part of a soldier’s life in combat zones with no clear frontlines or perimeters. Having to cope with unrecognizable enemies in the midst of civilian populations and attacks from hidden weapons like improvised explosive devices exacts a heavy toll. Compounding the problem is the all-volunteer nature of our armed forces, which often demands multiple deployments of enlistees. This results in frequent cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and families disrupted by the long absence of one and sometimes both parents. The author also discusses the lack of connectedness between civilian society and military personnel, leading to inadequate healthcare for many veterans. This deficiency has been highlighted by the urgent need to treat traumatic brain injuries in survivors of explosions and the high veteran suicide rate. Bouvard concludes on a positive note by discussing some of the surprising and encouraging ways that the chasm between civilian and military life is being bridged to help reintegrate our returning soldiers. For veterans, their families, and especially for civilians unaware of how much our soldiers have endured, The Invisible Wounds of War is important reading.
"The Invisible Wounds of War is an astonishing work of deep research, interviewing, reporting, and compassion that makes visible the personal, societal, psychological, and spiritual costs of the deep—and too often ignored—wounds suffered by many men and women who so patriotically volunteered their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. It should be required reading for every member of the US Congress, the press, and the rest of us who can learn how we also can be part of the solution."
—Florence George Graves, Founding director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University
"Too many of our veterans suffer in silence, unable to express the pain they feel, the losses they have endured, the transformation that has made them strangers to themselves. It isn’t easy to hear their voices, but Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard has done just that, by learning how to listen. And in this book of terrible truth, she encourages the rest of us to listen and to be far more understanding and angry and hopeful. We have a national tragedy to absorb—the impact of this decade of war on our sons and daughters, who will carry invisible wounds for many decades to come."
—Frank M. Ochberg, MD, Clinical professor of psychiatry, Michigan State University; former associate director, National Institute of Mental Health
"This book deserves to be read by everyone to both appreciate and understand our soldiers’ sacrifices. We all need to learn that their wounds are not just physical but also psychological, emotional, and spiritual, and that their families make tremendous long-term sacrifices after their return. Our soldiers should be honored and recognized for their service. Sharing their stories, and those of their families, is a way of healing in which we can all participate."
—Isaac Schiff, MD, Chief of service, Vincent Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Massachusetts General Hospital