“. . . . I have not been victimized by my military experiences, or by the Army. Claiming so is such a common refrain among veterans I’ve been tempted to adopt it, simply because it would require less explanation. In truth, I’ve benefited from my experiences. I have no complaints about pay, though I would likely have done better following through with my long-forgotten computer science degree. I haven’t suffered from shortages in benefits or care, though I don’t doubt others have. I enjoy the respect and credibility veterans seem to get for free and entirely independent of their competence. I’ve made many friends, and got to bear witness to that mysterious and heavily mythologized thing called combat. The great responsibilities I’d been entrusted with—leading men in combat as a platoon leader, preparing paratroopers as a jumpmaster, serving as a diplomat with Iraqi councilmen or Afghan tribal leaders—taught me much about myself and about people.
I think the breadth and depth of these responsibilities overwhelmed my perceptions when I wrote “E-mail from Iraq.” To me, now, it reads like war propaganda—a demonstration of the goodwill, energy and character of war’s participants, while beckoning the reader to ignore how we got there. . . .” (Read more at STANFORD Magazine)