By James Wright
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Extra info for Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America's Wars and Those Who Fought Them
I received a note back from a recent ROTC graduate who was a platoon leader in Iraq. He wrote me to say that none of the men in his platoon had a college education and that he had taken to reading them a poem when they returned from patrols through always-hostile places. He reported that they enjoyed Frost’s poems and were asking for more. His approach affirmed for me that not only was there a place for ROTC on campuses like mine, but there was also a place for liberal arts graduates in the military ranks.
In each instance, this is impossible. The former, training for war, is sufficiently successful to engage in winning battles. The latter, unlearning and forgetting what they have just experienced, may not be possible for those who encounter the horror of war. Most veterans attribute their ability to engage in combat to simple fear as well as pride—no one wants to let others down or appear to be wanting in the necessary courage to engage. It is essential to suppress reason, at least civilian reason.
These things are never permanent, but we almost certainly have left for the foreseeable future the era of large armies mobilized to face an enemy across a huge field of combat. I would wager that we are as likely to return to archers with longbows at Agincourt as to see a replay of the massive-force landing at Normandy. It is not clear that our national narrative of how we fight wars has quite caught up to current circumstances. I conclude this book with some observations about the understandings that need to precede modern wars and about the provisions we need to make for those who fight them.
Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America's Wars and Those Who Fought Them by James Wright