In David Finkel’s new book “Thank You for Your Service,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist examines what happens to soldiers when they return from war — from a man who drives around with a shotgun while debating suicide, to another who dreams about dead bodies. Finkel explores their stories, their struggles for veteran services, and the battles they face once the war is over. He joins us in the studio.

David Finkel, editor and writer for The Washington Post who has covered wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq; recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship; and author of "Thank You for Your Service" and "The Good Soldiers"

  • Kurt thialfad

    One would think that drug (i.e. heroin) addiction would be epidemic among GIs returning from Afghanistan, given the fact that Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium poppies, coupled with the high stress of men in combat. Either there is very little heroin use among these GIs or this information is being very skillfully suppressed.

    • Chemist150

      Due to the volunteer nature of the military, they’re being more stringent on their selection. Some of the older guys are heavily tattooed but now they’re even selecting against tattoos.

      i.e. they’re trying to select the ones that most blindly follow orders. There are good and bad possible ramifications from this.

  • Steve D.

    Why are we so surprised about 25% or so these soliders coming home with both physical and mental problems after what they have seen and been through? And did not a majority of these individual volunteer to sign on for this task and the risk that comes with it? It seems to be naive if not dishonest to think that this a reality of war and the aftermath.

  • Robert

    Thanks for the books. I am a Vietnam veteran with 2.5 years in Vietnam from Jan. 1968 10 days before the TET event until May of 1970. I can’t remember there being so much about the Vietnam Vets problems vs the Middle east vets. It is good to see these topics brought into the light. With the NSA in the forefront of the news today, I also have to reflect on the employment interview of Will Hunting by the NSA in the movie “Good Will Hunting” and his comments as to why he should or should not join their ranks. Thanks again Dave for your efforts.

  • Marianne Hook

    As a retired Army vet, the phrase “thank you for your service’ coming from someone who is just trying to sell me something irritates me. I want to ask them – if you are so thankful for MY service, why don’t YOU volunteer? Why don’t YOU encourage your child to go into the service?
    Our national security is carried on the shoulders of a smaller and smaller segment of our population.

  • Chemist150

    While I do agree that a government that sends troops into a dangerous situation should appropriately train and afterwards, take care of the troops, it’s not wrong to not support the troops morally. WWII vets have my respect and gratitude.

    However now…

    They are not fighting for my freedom. Quite the opposite, they volunteer, of their own free will, to support administration after administration to fight unpopular wars which people do not agree with. They volunteer to continue supporting bad policy.

    They are not fighting for my Constitutional rights. Quite the opposite, they volunteer, of their own free will, to support administration after administration that is undermining the Constitution.

    They are volunteering to help bankrupt this nation through uncontrolled defense spending.

    These wars are not worth their lives or emotional stability. I told my nephew that before he joined the marines.

    It’s time to teach our children right from wrong. If they join the military, it’s should be for themselves and don’t try to claim that you’re doing it for me or others. It may be because you can’t afford college and didn’t do well in high school and need the financial support but it’s not for me.

    It’s not worth your life and emotional stability to support wars for the wrong reasons or to support administrations that continue to undermine the Constitution. It’s not worth supporting the financial ruin of this country.

    Do not be the pawns in a kings game.

  • Denise McClure

    David Finkel, thank you for your book on this subject! I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the bay area and have listened to many vets suffering from PTSD and TBI.
    The stigma associated with mental health is unfortunately ubiquitous in our society, however it is journalists such as yourself who are providing education and insight to the subject of PTSD. Thank you, There is a n incredible veteran, Cpl Zach Skiles residing in San Francisco who completeted his first documentary Veterans “on killing”, which was shown on July 4, 2013 at the Roxie Theatre in SF. His documentary is available on you tube for viewing and I highly recommend you watch it. The film provides personal insights into veterans experience in training, combat and aftermath. I believe it is based on Lt Col Dave Grossmans book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.”
    Again Mr. Finkel thank you for your work!
    Denise McClure

  • James R

    I missed the first twenty minutes of this forum but it is the best forum of 2013.

    A US war is never a shared sacrifice.

  • Ronayne A. Dalton

    I caught part of the interview yesterday. I had read “The Good Soldiers” and went directly to the bookstore to buy “Thank You For Your Service”. After having lived in Mill Valley for 25 years, I’ve just moved back to the area after spending 5 years in Columbus, Ga. My son had been in the infantry for 9 years and unexpectedly killed himself in front of other soldiers at Fort Benning. Two years later, I moved there. I spoke on post quite a few times and also sponsored an exhibit of soldiers’ tattoos, words, and faces using Brian Turner’s poetry from “Here, Bullet”. I think the most humbling aspect of the whole experience was to hear the stories of these young men and women: a medic tearing up talking about not being able to save his men, another who ended up killing innocent civilians who misunderstood and didn’t stop at a checkpoint, one who killed a child aiming a weapon at him, numerous instances of survivors guilt having escaped an ambush when one’s buddies did not. I could go on and on. Just what is a “normal” response to this? Whatever one’s political views, they represented our country. We owe them. We can do more.

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