Sebastian Junger, New York Times Bestseller, author of The Perfect Storm, and A Death in Belmont, as well as a contributing editor to Vanity Fair is not only the author of WAR, but also along with photojournalist Tim Hetherington, directed Restrepo, a Documentary which was nominated for an Oscar.
Over the course of 15 months, Junger, writing for Vanity Fair, was embedded with a single platoon at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan. His objective was to convey what soldiers experience. What war really feels like.
This book is the result of 5 trips to The Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan ( also known as The Valley of Death) between June of 2007 and June of 2008. He worked with photojournalist Tim Hetherington sometimes and other times each went on their own. Entirely dependent on our military for everything. Their hours of videotape became the basis of the feature length documentary called Restrepo.
This book was as hard to read as it was rewarding. At some point, I was so emotional I didn’t think I could continue, but I did. The book focuses on one platoon, Battle Company and is a real and honest look at what these men go through in one of the worst places to be in Afghanistan. These are real people making life and death decisions and doing their best to just do their jobs and not get killed. The total trust they have in each other, the pain when one of their own is lost or injured. The feeling of never being able to let your guard down for an instant. Understanding the difference between Human terrain and Physical terrain. This was but one of the things I had never considered. Also that the moral basis of the war doesn’t seem to interest soldiers so much, and its long-term success or failure has a relevance of almost zero. The U.S. pulled out of The Konegal Valley in 2010.
I also watched the documentary and got to see the guys who I had only pictured in my head. As they talked about their experiences and their lost friends and there was a look in all of their eyes that made you feel like they had seen things that even they couldn’t quite face. It was a superb film.
We had a discussion on the book at our local library, as Mr. Junger is in Oklahoma this week doing several talks and signings, and I would like to thank Susan at the Del City branch for her insights into the book and the film. This is a book that needs to be shared and needs to be talked about. I encourage you all to watch the film as well as read the book.