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Showing 1-10 of 305 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 444 reviews
on February 9, 2014
Review of What It Is Like to Go to War
by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2011)
N.B.: Citations from Kindle e-reader

Military chaplaincy is part of the traditional mission work of our church. Thousands of veterans are returning to our neighborhoods, churches, and campuses. Do we understand them? Can we understand them?
I have never been a soldier. I have never been in combat. I have never been in a situation of “kill or be killed.” I have never had to kill anyone. I am not a member of “the Club,” which has “always been a club with its own secrets and its own societally imposed rules of silence.” (location 2769-73)
I can never understand the combat veteran because I’ve never been there. Anyone involved in mission and ministry knows the truth that only people of the culture can understand the culture:
• Only alcoholics can understand alcoholics.
• Only Native Americans can understand Native Americans.
• Only victims of abuse can understand other victims.
I can sympathize with the vet, but I cannot empathize, and s/he knows it. Yet, we have to be in ministry with this very needy portion of our society. This book can help us realize why we can’t understand.
Marlantes is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He has been there. He’s a member of the Club. Very honestly and courageously he tries to help us understand why we can’t understand, why vets typically just don’t talk with us about it. “Not talking about it… is the veterans’ protection against our great fear of being misunderstood.” (location 2865-70)
The chapter topics help us realize the dimensions of this sub-culture:
• Killing
• Guilt
• Numbness and Violence
• The Enemy Within
• Lying
• Loyalty
• Heroism
• Home
• The Club.
With a great deal of introspection and real-life experiences, Marlantes brings us into the powerful world he entered as a young man and still lives out of:
The combat veteran is still not out in the open where the whole of culture can benefit from the sorrow and price and society’s attitude toward war and fighting can mature psychologically and spiritually. (location 2925-30)
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with vets, particularly those who have been in frontline combat. It is a great book for group discussion. Probably vets will not want to be there at first, for fear of judgment and pressure to share what s/he wants to keep secret. However, I guarantee that readers/discussers of this book will look at vets differently – and sympathetically, whether mainstreaming in their churches and classrooms or opting out along alleys and street corners.
Herb Hoefer
Concordia University-Portland
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on December 4, 2016
This book is a must read for all military and civilian. The United States of America has known perhaps less than ten years of peace in our history. In all the other years we have been engaged in some kind of military operation. We know how to bring destruction. We suck however at the part of understanding the impact of combat on the Soldier and their family. Marlantes provides us an incredible window in which to see, experience and understand the impact of war on its participants. Hopefully we can use this information to better prepare our young men and women for war and prepare our society to more effectively reintegrate the combat veteran when the fighting is over.
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on June 18, 2014
This book was written by a Marine Lt who volunteered for combat duty in the Vietnam war. He, like so many combat veterans before and after him, came home with unknown mental problems that affected both himself in his career, and his wife and children. I can relate to his story because I was a child of a WWII combat veteran that had what we now know is PTSS. It affected me and all my siblings and our mother. It was a terrible childhood for all of us, and we are still dealing with the after affects of the unholy way in which we were raised. We still tip toe around for fear of raising the ire of our father and releasing the beast within him, even though he is long dead. War truly is bad for children and all other living things, more than just the soldier is affected. the families, and society in general pays a great cost of the mental wounds these poor men bring home from the wars with them. The author gives spiritual insight into controling these demons before going into war, and gives suggestions on how our military can give these men and women tools to deal with unresolved anger and pain and nightmares. If you are a child of war, or are considering joining the military, please, please, read this book and try to follow some of the spiritual guidelines offered so you can deal with what has happened to you already, or is going to happen to you when you have to do the most unspeakable thing we ask of our children, taking the life of another human. Even if you are not affected by war in any way, (that's just what YOU think, I assure you, we are all affected by our countries wars) you should read this book and see what a marine volunteer has to say about the cavalier way in which our "leaders" are so non chalant about committing our children to war. In his opinion, nothing short of the loss of our freedoms is reason enough to go to war. Oil, land, etc, to enrich the already fabulously wealthy is an unjustifiable reason to kill even one of our children. Whether you are a Hawk, or a Dove, if you are a person of morals, you will find this book a breath of fresh air, telling us the truth about war. It offers suggestions on our now popular mantra, "To bring Democracy to the world". Not every country is ready, or even deserving of the lives of our children to attempt to bring them Democracy. It tells us to demand of our "leaders" the knowledge of whether the war will require just a short time in combat and then all boots out, or whether it will require the committment of thousands of soldiers for decades to change the thinking of people whose minds are three or four centuries behind the rest of the civilized world. Please DEMAND your child read this book before he/she joins the military! There are other, better ways to serve mankind than to kill people and destroy countries for our "leaders" to then give contracts to their buddies to make trillions of dollars on rebuilding what we have just destroyed. We all need to open our eyes. War is NOT glamorous.
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on February 8, 2012
This is the most eloquent discussion of war, its motivations, its personal and societal impacts - in a word, it's all-encompassing in its scope. Marlantes offers modern-day Sun-Tzu-like principles in words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that are stunning in their logical simplicity, but which are obviously the result of some very complex thinking and introspection over the past 40+ years. I did not think anyone could equal or surpass Dexter Filkins' "The Forever War," but Mr. Marlantes has indeed done so. But that's like arguing over who was better, John Coltrane or Miles Davis.

It is a tour-de-force. Suggestion: read "Matterhorn," his non-fictional account of one Vietnam experience. first (it's a tough book to read, whether you were over there or not). Let that sit for a month or so.

Then take on what I consider to be "The Answer." His prescriptions for understanding Ethical Warriors, how to become one through principle-based decision-making, as well as his advice to "helicopter hovering parents" who abhor seeing the natural violence that children exhibit at times, as well as his plea for Warriors to break the Code of Silence, ..... on and on and on.

Whether you are left, right, or center, whether you are are anti-war, pro-war or indifferent, whether you are a vet or know or are related to one, and mostly if you are "in the middle of the s__t" right now overseas, this book is your way towards enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom, not least of which will be the acquisition of "down-to-the-bone honest ways of dealing with "It." 'Nuff Said.

If there is any justice in this world. Mr. Marlantes will get a Pulitzer for this. Personally, I believe his recommendations and solutions regarding human behavior, warfighting, and all that I've briefly and inadequately described above deserve the Nobel Prize.
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on July 14, 2017
Should be required reading for every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine before they sign on the dotted line to join the military. Also, EVERY politician should sign an affidavit attesting that s/he read this attentively and understands the lessons (and responsibilities) outlined here. Come to think of it, if you are planning to utter the words "thank you for your service" you must first read this book, AND the author's novel "Matterhorn" so that you understand what service really, really means before you say those words. Thank you Karl Marlantes. Thank you very, very much.
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on May 27, 2014
Everyone needs to read this book. Young people need to understand the consequences of entering military service at a time when war is so easily seen by our leaders as a solution to international disputes.
We all, voters and legislators alike, need to know what awaits the people we send to a war that requires acts they've been told by society or their religion are morally wrong. Only if we know what war is really like can we understand that our young people need to prepare for the experience, a preparation that should be added to the excellent physical training. We will understand that we need to help the returning survivors to heal mentally and spiritually when they return home to their friends and families.
The author, as a Marine combat veteran and Rhodes scholar, combines his experience, thought, and research of forty years in a book that explains what being a warrior requires, what unseen damage combat can inflict, and suggestions, not only on what the combat veteran requires to prepare for mental and moral stress, adding to the otherwise competent training, but suggestions on the help needed when the combat survivors return home.

Perhaps the author wrote with the knowledge and hope that if most of us read it, we will realize we can really each make a difference. Our leaders could make big differences, and if enough voters are enlightened, the leaders will change, and we could eventually see huge changes, not only in the warrior's lot, but in the current desire to send young people to die or be maimed for political reasons.
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on March 31, 2017
Remarkable! Full of wisdom about the way of the warrior and things our leaders should know before they send our soldiers into battle. And beautifully written. I don't think there is another modern book like this though the Greeks knew many of its truths. Moving and evocative.
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on May 4, 2015
This book is a tough read. It deals very thoughtfully and carefully with the psyche of the warrior, who he/she is, how the experiences of war affect the warrior, and what we do and don't do in preparing the warrior to go, and what little we do and what more we should do to prepare the warrior to return to civilian life. The book is a tough read because it takes the reader far into the personal experiences of the author and at the same time seems to maintain a rational and relatively dispassionate stance regarding the real issues. It is a book for the thoughtful, to be read several times. It is not for the person seeking the thrills or the battle scene excitement, although some of that is essential to the points being made. For thought provocation, the book is highly recommended.
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on February 29, 2012
After reading "Matterhorn" the author's experience expressed in this book, "What it is like to go to War" mirrors the experiences I had as a Army Combat Veteran. Not understanding the aggression I had after my return in 1968 nevertheless I finish Oregon State University (Anti-War Riot at the University of Oregon turned my stomach). I was brought up in a Baptist Church but upon I my return I was lost, not wanting to put on my uniform, not standing for the National Anthem and much more...heavily drinking, drugs and all that allowed me to escape.

Not until the mid-seventies did the panic attacks start...no one understood the constant daily thought of the dead, friend and enemy...today, I have PTSD treatments and a VA center, my short term memory is gone, I am dizzy, confused and live certain days over and over again to my wife's horror...waking up at night not knowing what I will do.

"What it is like to go to War" put into words who I am, my thoughts, my fears and all the problems I cannot explain to others (I have never found a non-combat soldier or Marine that understands and as far as civilians I really don't think they care.) Thankfully I am having tests for TBI since I have many of the symptoms of the disease.

Nevertheless I will be eternally grateful for Karl's book "What It Like to Go to War"...its the only way I know to understand the feelings and aggressiveness that come with being with a combat veteran...even if it took 35-40 years to hit me like a ton of bricks.

God Bless you/
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on October 11, 2013
I can't do this remarkable book enough justice. I first got it from the library, but realized I wanted to own it. The five-star ratings are absolutely on point in their accolades. I've read several great books about Vietnam that describe soldiers, combat and hardships in a manner that create realism for the reader. Marlantes' perspective does that as well, but goes beyond that; he exposes the soul of a combat soldier with unabashed honesty, even describing his embarrassing innermost thoughts, fears, and involuntary bodily functions. He wrote of his experiences when he returned home, again with blatant honesty giving the reader very private insights, and lending greater understanding of the difficulty Vietnam veterans faced in transitioning home. He described what and who made a difference in his journey; he intelligently and clearly explains how training soldiers facing combat can and should prepare them psychologically, setting the groundwork for a more successful healing process when they return home. If that is all soldiers or clinicians get from this book, it is worth its weight in gold; it is worth so much more. It is a must have. However many books one may own about Vietnam, this one is an indispensable keystone. I bought two more copies for Vietnam Veteran friends of mine, because I know will be a part of their healing to have such private experiences acknowledged, and realize they are not alone in "unspeakable" issues. I was just as riveted to Mr. Marlantes' speaking on CSPAN Book T.V. Not to be missed. This book puts medical professionals on notice that multi-faceted comprehensive changes need to be implemented for veterans to endure, and then heal, from war.
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