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Thank You for Your Service

Cover of Thank You for Your Service

Thank You for Your Service

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From a MacArthur Fellow and the author of The Good Soldiers, a profound look at life after war
The wars of the past decade have been covered by brave and talented reporters, but none has reckoned with the psychology of these wars as intimately as the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel. For The Good Soldiers, his bestselling account from the front lines of Baghdad, Finkel embedded with the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion during the infamous "surge," a grueling fifteen-month tour that changed them all forever. In Finkel's hands, readers can feel what these young men were experiencing, and his harrowing story instantly became a classic in the literature of modern war.
In Thank You for Your Service, Finkel has done something even more extraordinary. Once again, he has embedded with some of the men of the 2-16—but this time he has done it at home, here in the States, after their deployments have ended. He is with them in their most intimate, painful, and hopeful moments as they try to recover, and in doing so, he creates an indelible, essential portrait of what life after war is like—not just for these soldiers, but for their wives, widows, children, and friends, and for the professionals who are truly trying, and to a great degree failing, to undo the damage that has been done.
The story Finkel tells is mesmerizing, impossible to put down. With his unparalleled ability to report a story, he climbs into the hearts and minds of those he writes about. Thank You for Your Service is an act of understanding, and it offers a more complete picture than we have ever had of these two essential questions: When we ask young men and women to go to war, what are we asking of them? And when they return, what are we thanking them for?
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013
One of The Washington Post's Top 10 Books of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book of 2013
An NPR Best Book of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

From a MacArthur Fellow and the author of The Good Soldiers, a profound look at life after war
The wars of the past decade have been covered by brave and talented reporters, but none has reckoned with the psychology of these wars as intimately as the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel. For The Good Soldiers, his bestselling account from the front lines of Baghdad, Finkel embedded with the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion during the infamous "surge," a grueling fifteen-month tour that changed them all forever. In Finkel's hands, readers can feel what these young men were experiencing, and his harrowing story instantly became a classic in the literature of modern war.
In Thank You for Your Service, Finkel has done something even more extraordinary. Once again, he has embedded with some of the men of the 2-16—but this time he has done it at home, here in the States, after their deployments have ended. He is with them in their most intimate, painful, and hopeful moments as they try to recover, and in doing so, he creates an indelible, essential portrait of what life after war is like—not just for these soldiers, but for their wives, widows, children, and friends, and for the professionals who are truly trying, and to a great degree failing, to undo the damage that has been done.
The story Finkel tells is mesmerizing, impossible to put down. With his unparalleled ability to report a story, he climbs into the hearts and minds of those he writes about. Thank You for Your Service is an act of understanding, and it offers a more complete picture than we have ever had of these two essential questions: When we ask young men and women to go to war, what are we asking of them? And when they return, what are we thanking them for?
One of Publishers Weekly's Best Nonfiction Books of 2013
One of The Washington Post's Top 10 Books of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book of 2013
An NPR Best Book of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

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Excerpts-
  • Copyright © 2013 by David Finkel

    1


    Two years later: Adam drops the baby.
    The baby, who is four days old, is his son, and there is a moment as he is falling that this house he has come home to seems like the most peaceful place in the world. Outside is the cold dead of 3:00 a.m. on a late-November night in Kansas, but inside is lamplight, the warm smell of a newborn, and Adam's wife, Saskia, beautiful Saskia, who a few minutes before had asked her husband if he could watch the baby so she could get a little sleep. "I got it," he had said. "I got it. Get some rest." She curled up in the middle of their bed, and the last thing she glimpsed was Adam reclined along the edge, his back against the headboard and the baby in his arms. He was smiling, as if contentment for this wounded man were possible at last, and she believed it enough to shut her eyes, just before he shut his. His arms soon relaxed. His grip loosened. The baby rolled off of his chest and over the edge of the bed, and here came that peaceful moment, the baby in the air, Adam and Saskia asleep, everyone oblivious, the floor still a few inches away, and now, with a crack followed by a thud, the moment is over and everything that will happen is under way.
    Saskia is the one who hears it. It is not loud, but it is loud enough. Her eyes fly open. She sees Adam closed-eyed and empty-armed, and only when he hears screaming and feels the sharp elbows and knees of someone scrambling across him does he wake up from the sleep he had promised he didn't need. It takes him a second or two. Then he knows what he has done.
    He says nothing. There is nothing he can say. He is sorry. He is always sorry now. He has been sorry for two years, ever since he slunk home from the war. He watches his wife scoop up the baby. He keeps watching, wishing she would look at him, willing her to, always so in need of forgiveness, but she won't. She clutches the crying baby as he dresses and leaves the room. He sits for a while in the dark, listening to her soothe the baby, and then he goes outside, gets into his pickup truck, and positions a shotgun so that it is propped up and pointed at his face. In that way, he starts driving, while back in the house, Saskia is trying to understand what happened. A crack. A thud. The thud was the floor, and thank God for the ugly carpet. But what was the crack? The bed frame? The nightstand?
    This baby. So resilient. Breathing evenly. Not even a mark. Somehow fine. How can that be? But he is. Maybe he is one of the lucky ones, born to be okay. Saskia lies with him, then gets up and comes back with a plastic bottle of water. She drops it from the side of the bed and listens to the sound it makes as it hits the floor.
    She drops a pair of heavy shoes and watches them bounce.
    She finds a basketball and rolls it off the edge.
    She fills a drink container with enough water to weigh about as much as the baby, and as Adam continues driving and considering the gun, not yet, not yet, not yet, not yet, she rolls that off the edge, too.
    * * *
    Two years. He is twenty-eight now, is out of the army, and has gained back some weight. When he left the war as the great Sergeant Schumann, he was verging on gaunt. Twenty-five pounds later, he is once again solid, at least physically. Mentally, though, it is still the day he headed home. Emory, shot in the head, is still draped across his back, and the blood flowing out of Emory's head is still rivering into his mouth. Doster, whom he might have loved the most, is being shredded again and again by a roadside bomb on a mission Adam was supposed to have been on, too, and after Doster is declared dead another soldier is saying to him, "None of this shit would have...

About the Author-
  • David Finkel is the author of The Good Soldiers, listed a best book of 2009 by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Slate.com, and The Boston Globe, and winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is a staff writer for The Washington Post, and is also the leader of the Post's national reporting team. He won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen, and the MacArthur "Genius" Grant in 2012. Finkel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 15, 2013
    From April 2007 to April 2008, Finkel, a MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter with the Washington Post, spent a total of eight months embedded in eastern Iraq with the young infantrymen of the 2-16 as their battalion fought desperately to survive and to make Bush’s troop surge a success. In 2009’s The Good Soldiers (one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year), he chronicled their harrowing day-to-day experiences—as their trust in the Iraqi people eroded, their nerves and comrades were shot, and IED after IED exploded. In this incredibly moving sequel, Finkel reconnects with some of the men of the 2-16—now home on American soil—and brings their struggles powerfully to life. These soldiers have names and daughters and bad habits and hopes, and though they have left the war in Iraq, the Iraq War has not left them. Now the battle consists of readjusting to civilian and family life, and bearing the often unbearable weight of their demons. Some have physical injuries, and all suffer from crippling PTSD. And as if navigating their own mental and emotional labyrinths weren’t enough of a challenge, they must also make sense of the Dickensian bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs. Told in crisp, unsentimental prose and supplemented with excerpts from soldiers’ diaries, medical reports, e-mails, and text messages, their stories give new meaning to the costs of service—and to giving thanks. Photos. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 15, 2013
    Washington Post writer Finkel delivers one of the most morally responsible works of journalism to emerge from the post-9/11 era. To call this moving rendering of the costs of war a continuation of the author's first book, The Good Soldiers (2009), would be misleading. While Finkel does focus on the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion following their actions in Iraq, the breadth and depth of his portraits of the men and women scarred by the 21st century's conflicts are startling. In a series of interconnected stories, Finkel follows a handful of soldiers and their spouses through the painful, sometimes-fatal process of reintegration into American society. The author gives a cleareyed, frightening portrayal of precisely what it is like to suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and what it is like to have the specter of suicide whispering into your ear every day. Finkel's emotional touchstone is Sgt. Adam Schumann, a genuine American hero who returned from Iraq without a physical scratch on him--but whose three tours of duty may have broken him for good. Schumann's condition, compounded by financial stress, drove a deep wedge between the wounded soldier and his wife, who has struggled to understand why her husband returned a changed man. Finkel also follows the widow of a soldier Schumann tried to save, an American Samoan vet whose TBI threatens to derail his life, and a suicidal comrade unable to overcome his condition, among others. Fighting on the front lines of this conflict are a compassionate case worker, a U.S. Army general who makes it his last mission to halt the waves of suicides, and the director of a transition center whose war should have ended long ago. The truly astonishing aspect of Finkel's work is that he remains completely absent from his reportage; he is still embedded. A real war story with a jarring but critical message for the American people.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2013
    Head of the "Washington Post"'s national reporting team, Pulitzer Prize winner Finkel did an extraordinary job of explaining the Iraq War in "The Good Soldiers", a best seller that followed the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion as they slogged through 15 months of the thunderous surge. Now he brings the war home, following many of the same men as they try to figure out how to engage again with both family and society.

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Frank Bruni, The New York Times "Together with its masterful prequel The Good Soldiers, [Thank You for Your Service] measures the wages of the war in Iraq--the wages of war, period--as well as anything I've read . . . [Finkel] atones for our scant attention by paying meticulous heed."
  • Katherine Boo, National Book Award–winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers "I'm urging everyone I know to give Thank You for Your Service just a few pages, a few minutes out of their busy lives. The families honored in this urgent, important book will take it from there."
  • Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and finalist for the National Book Award "Thank You for Your Service is one of the best and truest books I have ever read. David Finkel cuts through all the spin, the excuses, the blowhard politics and mind-deadening metrics to discover the cost of war for the soldiers who fight it and the families they come home to. This extraordinary book will piss you off and break your heart. It will shame you and lift you up. It will bend your mind to the reality of an American war that is now well into its second decade."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "In this incredibly moving sequel, Finkel reconnects with some of the men of the 2-16--now home on American soil--and brings their struggles powerfully to life . . . Told in crisp, unsentimental prose and supplemented with excerpts from soldiers' diaries, medical reports, e-mails, and text messages, their stories give new meaning to the costs of service--and to giving thanks."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "In a series of interconnected stories, Finkel follows a handful of soldiers and their spouses through the painful, sometimes-fatal process of reintegration into American society. The author gives a clear-eyed, frightening portrayal of precisely what it is like to suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and what it is like to have the specter of suicide whispering into your ear every day."
  • Doug Stanton, The New York Times Book Review "Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history."
  • Daniel Okrent, Fortune "The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read."
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