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Thank You for Your Service Hardcover – October 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; 1st Printing edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374180660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374180669
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Q&A for Thank You For Your Service. Chris Schluep, Editor at Amazon, interviews David Finkel, author of Thank You For Your Service.

Some books just sneak up on you and you're never the same after. I'd heard very little about David Finkel's Thank You For Your Service before reading it, and I hadn't read his previous book, The Good Soldiers, so my expectations were muted going into it. That changed quickly. This book is so personal, so moving, that I devoured it. Although the subject matter is difficult, you grow with the book as you read. One might even expect it to be a little dry and boring—it is not. David Finkel's nonfiction account of soldiers returning from combat is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I'll leave you with this blurb from author Katherine Boo, who couldn't have summarized my reading of the book (and hopefully yours) any better:

“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.” - Katherine Boo, National Book Award–winning author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

Read on for an interview with David Finkel —

Chris Schluep: Describe your research. How much time did you spend with the returned soldiers in the book?

David Finkel: The short answer is a year and a half, but the more accurate answer is ever since early 2007. I say that because my research really started when I embedded with the 2-16 infantry battalion during its fifteen-month deployment to eastern Baghdad during the Iraq War “surge” of 2007-2008. The story of what happened to those soldiers became my first book, The Good Soldiers and The Good Soldiers is what allowed and informed Thank You For Your Service, which is the second volume of the story. In Iraq, I was with Adam Schumann on the day he so guiltily left the war, and Tausolo Aieti on the day he was blown up and his dreams began. I met Nic DeNinno there and was there on the day that James Doster died. After The Good Soliders was published in 2009, it became clear that the story was only partly told. So many of the soldiers, home now, and so many of their families, were tipping over so many edges. Their war had become an after-war, and so I began traveling to Kansas, where the 2-16 is based, to see what I might be able to write. That brings me back to the short answer of eighteen months, which was how long I spent with the Schumanns, the Aietis, the DeNinnos, the surviving family of James Doster, and the rest of the people documented in Thank You For Your Service. That’s how long it took for me to feel confident that the story I’d be writing would feel true to a reader and true to them as well.

CS: When did you decide that Thank You For Your Service should be the title? Was it always the working title? What were your thoughts behind naming it that?

DF: I had a different title in mind when I was writing the book. Let’s just say it had the phrase “suicide room” in it, and when I mentioned it to someone at the publishing house, the reaction was: “That’s terrific. By the way, are you trying to put us out of business?” Or something like that. The reaction was better when I suggested Thank You For Your Service. Everyone liked it immediately – my editor, my agent, the folks in publicity -- except, for some time, me. I was concerned that people would think I was being sarcastic, or ironic, or bitter, or that I was expressing my own sugary gratitude. Instead of it being a title that would reflect the journalism inside the covers, I worried that it would instead be seen as reflecting an opinion of mine, and I’ve tried hard in Thank You For Your Service to keep any hint of my opinion out of the work. What finally turned it for me was coming up with an answer that, if I were asked about the title, would neatly explain my intentions: These are some of the people you’re thanking, and this is what you’re thanking them for.

CS: Did your opinion of the war and the people in it change between writing The Good Soldiers and writing this book?

DF: Well, I try hard to keep my opinions out of my work, and I’m reluctant to bring opinion into the mix now. To me, the emphasis should be on the soldiers and their families because they were – and are – the ones in the midst of it. Can I recast the question to: Have their opinions changed between coming home from the war in 2008 and now? The answer: absolutely, although I can only speak anecdotally, based on the people I’ve spent time with. It’s worth emphasizing that they are among the wounded ones and that most of the people deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are unwounded and presumably doing fine. Among the subset of the mentally wounded, though, which has been estimated at between 20 and 30 percent of the two million U.S. troops who have been deployed into the two wars, which works out to roughly 500,000 or so people, one of the profound changes in them is reflected in this line from the book: “while the truth of war is that it’s always about loving the guy next to you, the truth of the after-war is that you’re on your own.” In other words, in addition to the grief and guilt so many of these people carry, there’s also a widening sense of isolation and lonesomeness, which has led to an ever-deepening wondering of what their war was all about. Their initial sense of mission is largely gone, replaced by in some cases anger and in many cases a churning feeling of bewilderment.

CS: How did writing this book change you?

DF: Since I’m now nearly seven years older than when I began these books, maybe these changes would have happened anyway, but I’m probably a little sadder than I used to be, and also more grateful than I used to be. What else? I like ending a day with wine on my front porch more than I used to. I like shenanigans less than I used to. I grew up in a house where the threat of suicide was present for several years, so it's been interesting to revisit that. I think of war now not only intellectually but viscerally. I dream about it sometimes, but not as much as I did. I’m glad my friends now include soldiers, and that their friends now include someone like me. Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: How do you make war personal? It’s not easy, especially when writing about a war that the public has basically given up on (or was never that interested in to begin with). Descriptions of violence that most of us will never see can lose their potency and trail off toward the abstract; it happens in even the best novels and nonfiction. But what David Finkel has done is to follow the troops home from Iraq to cover their “after-war.” Their struggles and suffering back in the States are easier for us to relate to, and Thank You For Your Service is an absolutely mesmerizing account of the pain and hope that they carry from day-to-day. This is an important book, and there are great truths inside, none more powerful than when Finkel writes: “while the truth of war is that it’s always about loving the guy next to you, the truth of the after-war is that you’re on your own.” --Chris Schluep

Customer Reviews

This book was a hard read.
Amazon Customer
Excellent book that followed the true stories of many veterans from the war in Iraq dealing with their demons of PTSD and the families struggles to adapt to them.
Sam Wilder
David Finkel has written an important, scary book about our endless wars without any boundaries.
Larry Rochelle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Commenting on this book should start with the elegiac cover image of nameless soldiers packed into a transport plane - small, faceless and an honest visual portrayal. That's what soldiers looked like, going overseas or coming home: tired and small and grinding out another day. As this easily five-star book explains, that grind continues long after the plane ride ends.

In interviews, author David Finkel has made clear he did not use the title ironically - as he said, when one says 'thank you' this book describes what those words are thanking a soldier or their families for.

This book follows soldiers and family members first chronicled in Finkel's The Good Soldiers, which told the story of an Iraq deployment in 2007-8. The years since have given Finkel the time and space to tell a post-war story with honest perspective.

Finkel scrupulously avoids the first-person narration so self-indulgently common in many wartime stories and memoirs. He does not pass judgement, or editorialize. He witnesses and chronicles events and conversations, but only rarely can a reader say with confidence what Finkel actually thought. That's a compliment - the narrative becomes the subject's story, whether it's Sgt. Adam Schumann, dealing with crippling PTSD, or Amanda Doster, who lost her husband, or others. With this objective focus, I rarely felt manipulated or emotionally distracted by a writer's demand that I feel something - the descriptions do that without needing any artificial help.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Robin on October 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thank You for Your Service chronicles the slow and painful journey of soldiers profiled in The Good Soldiers, and their families to recover from war. These men, and one widow, mainly want just to get back to normal. The problem is that that very little in their lives is normal. Not only is PTSD an ever present waking nightmare, money troubles, career problems and the strain of raising children under incredible pressure is more than some can bear.

If there were an effective cure, or even a good treatment for PTSD, ineffective treatment would be less frustrating to read about. We'd be turning the pages waiting for the upturn in the story. This book takes us on the journey of treatment but mostly it's about the disease, and what it does. I read about these men, wives beaten, children raised in stress, listening to constant fighting and my heart ached. These families are so young. The wives are little more than girls, but have responsibilities that would crush much more experienced people. Most seemed isolated from their families, with no aunts, uncles, parents or grandparents to share the burden.

This terrible problem needs national attention--I don't know of a recent veteran who isn't worried about at least one friend. Many young veterans have lost good friends, to suicide. There are veterans groups, doctors, the sometimes hapless VA, but no easy answers.

But at the same time I worry that this book might make people nervous about returning veterans, the vast majority of whom, do not suffer from the long term effects of PTSD.

When my son went off to war, as a Marine, he explained to me that the risk of PTSD increases with each deployment. He came home of sound mind, and in one piece.
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Format: Hardcover
"Thank You For Your Service" by David Finkel is an intimate story that tells story about the former soldiers and severity of their integration back into society.

Somehow this is a sequel to his previously published work "The Good Soldiers" where author introduced us the soldiers of one Infantry Battalion that left for Iraq.
Their return is described in this book and reader can realize how changed they become due to their experience not matter how short it was, someone malicious could say.

These are people who have wounds that are invisible on first sight, they don't lack any of the limbs or are disabled in common sense, that would have probably helped them to be seen as victims. Instead they have PTSD and TMI, problems that are still a mysterious to most people and often misused, thereby often belittle.

We see how is difficult for them to continue living their normal lives, with their families but also on general level how difficult their society reintegration is.

The title of the book is made in somehow ironic way because this is a sentence they've been hearing lot of times since they came back but anyone besides themselves and their families know and can't understand how difficult is to be back, how strange it feels to start living again normal life after all the shocking events they've been through.

The author writes without any hesitation, his stories are powerful while he portrays former soldiers as broken men together with their families that became broken due to their war experience.
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More About the Author

David Finkel 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.

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