Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years

Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years

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by Ron Capps

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For more than a decade, Ron Capps, serving as both a senior military intelligence officer and as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State, was witness to war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. From government atrocities in Kosovo, to the brutal cruelties perpetrated in several conflicts in central Africa, the wars in both Aghanistan and Iraq…  See more details below


For more than a decade, Ron Capps, serving as both a senior military intelligence officer and as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State, was witness to war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. From government atrocities in Kosovo, to the brutal cruelties perpetrated in several conflicts in central Africa, the wars in both Aghanistan and Iraq, and culminating in genocide in Darfur, Ron acted as an intelligence collector and reporter but was diplomatically restrained from taking preventative action in these conflicts. The cumulative effect of these experiences, combined with the helplessness of his role as an observer, propelled him into a deep depression and a long bout with PTSD, which nearly caused him to take his own life. Seriously Not All Right is a memoir that provides a unique perspective of a professional military officer and diplomat who suffered (and continues to suffer) from PTSD. His story, and that of his recovery and his newfound role as founder and teacher of the Veterans Writing Project, is an inspiration and a sobering reminder of the cost of all wars, particularly those that appeared in the media and to the general public as merely sidelines in the unfolding drama of world events.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Capps served as an army officer for nine years then became a Foreign Service officer documenting war crimes in Kosovo, Central Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur. This searing memoir recounts the horrors Capps encountered and their devastating effects on his psyche and soul. “This book tells the story of how I got to the point in my life when I was sitting alone in a pickup truck in the middle of the African continent ready to end it all, and how I came back from there.” Capps does an admirable job of painting a picture of war for those who know little about life in the military or the Foreign Service. In 2002, Capps received a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, though obtaining any help for his condition became another battle: “The government that sent me to war, that encouraged me to return again and again, dropped me as soon as I stumbled,” Capps writes. After returning home, Capps attended a graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University. He founded the Veterans Writing Project, which provides tools for veterans to communalize their experiences through the telling of their stories. Capps’s telling of his story of war and bearing witness is vitally important for “the 99% of Americans who sat out the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” (May)
Kirkus Reviews
As a foreign service officer and soldier, Capps discovered firsthand the psychological and emotional tolls of wartime. The author, who is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project, begins his memoir with an account of the time he nearly committed suicide. Capps joined the military as a careerist back in the mid-1980s, though he was sharp enough to take and pass the foreign service exam, and he traveled to many global flashpoints during his career. The author writes in a fairly straightforward style—in Kabul, the "old market is...just as much a warren of alleys as it was five hundred years ago. It was a great place to take the temperature of the city—to walk around and get a feel for how safe things felt or what people were talking about"—but the narrative is thick with portent. Capps has seemingly seen it all, including Rwanda when the Hutus and Tutsis were slaughtering each other and battlegrounds in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The horrors of what he has witnessed, and his inability to right just one of the overturned carts, have followed him to bed at night—to call them nightmares would be to diminish their stark terror—and inflicted him with shakes, panic attacks and severe depression, as well as a horrible fear: "[T]he thing that really scares me and sends me running for help—is that I am not in control of my mind." Eventually, to combat his raging PTSD, Capps sought both psychiatric and pharmacological help, and he is now glad to no longer be a participant in the suffering of war. "There will always be wars and there will always be dead guys," he writes in closing. "But someone else is out there now. Godspeed to them. I've done my share. I'm going home." A mostly even-keeled soldier's memoir that occasionally throws sparks.
From the Publisher

“Endorsing a book with the word “stunning” is a cliché, but with some books no other word will do. Seriously Not All Right is one of those books. Tracking his extraordinary career as both Army and Foreign Service officer, Ron Capps chronicles the staggering violence humans visit upon each other in the name of borders, politics, ethnicity, race, and tribe. Capps’s career carried him through a series of humanitarian catastrophes, from Kosovo to Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Darfur, bringing him face to face with atrocities beyond ken. He details every haunted moment with unforgettable precision, but this book travels much further than that, becoming a textured inquiry into the nature of war and violence, a field guide to PTSD-induced madness and despair, and a map to survival and a rediscovery of hope. This powerful and necessary work teaches us that, while we cannot expunge the ghosts of history, we can and must bear witness and share the truth as we know it.” —Richard Currey, author of Fatal Light and Crossing Over: The Vietnam Stories.

“..this approaches the sublime.” —Mark Thompson, TIME Magazine

“…a powerful, haunting testament to war, and the memory of war.” —Patrick Hicks, author of The Commandant of Lubizek

“…a must-read for those who care about our nation, its wars, and the men involved in them. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another story like this one.” —Dario DiBattista, Courage Beyond

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Product Details

Schaffner Press, Inc.
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9.10(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Ron Capps is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project, a nonprofit that provides no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, active and reserve service members, and military family members. He is the curriculum developer and lead instructor for the National Endowment for the Arts programs that bring expressive and creative writing seminars to wounded warriors at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. His literary writing has appeared in the Delmarva Review, JMWW, the Little Patuxent Review, the New York Times, Prime Number, RiverLit, and in numerous online venues. His policy writing and commentary have appeared regularly in the American Interest, Foreign Policy, Health Affairs, Monthly Developments Magazine, and Time magazine’s Battleland blog and on NPR’s All Things Considered, the BBC World Service, and Pacifica Radio. He has been a consultant to Frontline, PBS’s Newshour, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, he served in the Army and Army Reserve for 25 years, retiring as a lieutenant Colonel. He lives in Washington, DC. 

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Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know much about science, but I've heard about the Observer Effect. The Observer Effect tries to explain the slippery concept of what happens when someone observes something, thereby changing it to some degree. In short, if you check the air in your tires, you have to let some air out of your tires. Ron Capps observed, up close, extreme human violence and cruelty, and the tires went nearly flat. I felt, while reading it, that his own observer effect on atrocity and cruelty, might be the mystery he is trying to explore in this masterfully written story. He recorded what he saw, and tried to use what power he had to do the most good for the most people. But the frustration built, war after war, genocide after genocide, and observation after observation. This book describes what happens to the human soul when a man stands to close to the altar of Mars, the god of war. This book helped me understand my own struggles with my war experience. As an Iraq veteran, I know a little of what that war did to me. Capps' description of his symptoms are the best description of PTSD and moral injury that I have ever read. If you want to understand your own war experience or the war experience of a veteran you love, get this book. I especially love how Capps describes his ongoing work with veterans, helping them write their own stories of war and homecoming.