The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War

( 7 )

Overview

What is it like to kill?  What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these men, many of whom Sites first met while in Afghanistan and Iraq,...

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Overview

What is it like to kill?  What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these men, many of whom Sites first met while in Afghanistan and Iraq, the truth means something different. One struggles to recover from a head injury he believes has stolen his ability to love; another attempts to make amends for the killing of an innocent man; yet another finds respect for the enemy fighter who tried to kill him. Sites also shares the unsettling narrative of his own failures during war—including his complicity in a murder—and the redemptive powers of storytelling that saved him from a self-destructive downward spiral.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this riveting and emotionally raw debut, award-winning journalist Sites profiles 11 soldiers (including members of non-American militaries) to explore what it feels like to kill, “be shot, bombed or burned in combat,” and how one goes on living after the fighting dies down. Sites opens candidly with his own experience, describing how a moment of journalistic indifference in 2004 resulted in the murder of a captured Iraqi insurgent, a tragedy the author dwells on intermittently throughout the book. Drawing from interviews and military records, Sites goes on to tell the stories of veterans of the wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and, in the case of his own father, WWII. Whether stationed in sultry jungles, urban streets, or rugged mountains, soldiers are asked to endure intense physical and mental traumas, and while common threads weave throughout these stories, each is unique: one describes the horror of witnessing the crucifixion of a deceased North Vietnamese Army officer; another tells of the guilt that accompanies friendly fire. But these gripping stories do not equal “an indictment against hope”; they are evidence of a profound desire to heal. Photos. (Jan.)
Booklist
“This is tough stuff, as many of the experiences recounted here are graphic, cruel,and bloody, but they offer an intimate look at the costs of war on a personal, elemental level.”
Shelf Awareness (Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books & Cafe)
A gritty look at postwar distress, including veterans’ personal accounts, by a journalist with his own intimate perspective on the subject.
Sean Parnell
“Brilliant! An unprecedented view into the heart, mind and soul of American Warriors from every generation. A must read for every American.”
Edward Tick
A vivid set of portrats of modern combatants written in prose taht moves with speed and heat.”
Shelf Awareness (Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books & Cafe
A gritty look at postwar distress, including veterans’ personal accounts, by a journalist with his own intimate perspective on the subject.
San Francisco Chronicle
“Sites highlights the importance of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and sharing stories. Most importantly, he forces readers, those average civilians, to look at what war does to people and think about whether it’s always worth it.”
Vice
“The harrowing accounts detail the experiencesof 11 US soldiers and Marines who have been ravaged by modern warfare and its psychological aftermath. What makes Kevin’s reporting unique and essential is that it didn’t stop on the battlefield—he followed his subjects home.”
(Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books & Cafe) - Shelf Awareness
A gritty look at postwar distress, including veterans’ personal accounts, by a journalist with his own intimate perspective on the subject.
Kirkus Reviews
Veterans from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan--including Sites himself as a war correspondent (In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, 2007)--tell their tales of the struggle to survive on and after the battlefield, in the hopes that such storytelling may be a way "to release warriors from the bonds of their own silence." Lance Cpl. James Sperry writes, "I am only twenty-four and have lived a life I wish on no one." Such is the common thread of despair to be found among these warriors' tales. In combat, they did and saw things no one should endure. They killed--the enemy, civilians, their own troops as a result of friendly fire. They saw friends blown apart, and they were wounded. They grew rabid with anger and a desire to kill. Then they were expected to return to friends, family and community unchanged from these horrors. But this was not possible, as veteran after veteran experienced PTSD. Too often in silence, combat veterans suffered from an inability to reconnect, to love, to be simply normal. Sites includes himself among the lost, as he recounts how his "confused incompetent inaction" led to the murder of Iraqi insurgent Taleb Salem Nidal. Sites thus joined the ranks of those suffering from PTSD--covering guilt, shame and fear in a haze of alcohol and marijuana, numbed by taking "a chef's salad of [prescribed] drugs every day," losing wives and loved ones who could not understand their sullen withdrawal. However, in sensitive, honest prose, the author emphasizes that this is a book about hope. Most of the wounded warriors eventually found their way back, including Sites, and part of the healing process involves telling their stories. The author allows himself and the combat veterans he interviews the space to do so. An important book for warriors and the communities that send them to war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061990526
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Pages: 295
  • Sales rank: 354,420
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Sites has spent the past decade covering global war and disaster for ABC, NBC, CNN and Yahoo! News. One of the first "backpack journalists," Sites helped pioneer the more mobile, less-intrusive profile of today's digital reporters. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars. He lives and works in Hong Kong.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Killer in Me xvii

Prologue: Me and My PTSD 1

Part I The Killing Business: What's It Like to Kill in War?

Chapter 1 Killing Up Close 25

Corporal William Wold, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2004)

Chapter 2 Pulling the Trigger 59

Staff Sergeant Mikeal Auton, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 4th Infantry

The War in Iraq (2004 and 2006)

Part II The Wounds of War: What's It Like to Be Shot, Bombed or Burned in Combat?

Chapter 3 Survivor's Guilt 77

Lance Corporal James Sperry, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2004)

Chapter 4 Someone's Not Listening 125

Gunnery Sergeant Leonard Shelton, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines

The Gulf War (1991)

Intermission: The Greatest Veneration: My Father's War 141

Part III Things That Stain the Soul: What Can Never Be Forgotten?

Chapter 5 Dogs of War 153

Specialist Joe Caley, U.S. Army

1st Cavalry, 25th Infantry

The War in Vietnam (1968-70)

Chapter 6 Hung on a Cross 165

First Lieutenant Thomas Saal, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines

The War in Vietnam (1967-68)

Part IV Deadly Honest Mistakes: What's It Like to Kill Your Own Men or Civilians?

Chapter 7 Unfriendly Fire 185

Specialist Michael "Casey" Ayala, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 327th Infantry

The War in Iraq (2006)

Chapter 8 Making It Right 205

Captain Zachary Iscol, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2003-05)

Part V Moral Ambiguities: How Do You Know What's Right?

Chapter 9 Morris versus Mo 223

Colonel Morris Goins, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry

The War in Iraq (2006-08)

Chapter 10 The Quiet Soldier 233

Major Lior Tailer, Israel Defense Forces

609th Reserve Infantry Unit

The Wars in Lebanon (1989-90 and 2006)

Chapter 11 Into the Deep 255

Corporal Sebastiaan Schoonhoven, Royal Netherlands Army

11th Air Mobile Brigade

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2004 and 2006)

Epilogue: Deus Ex Machina 277

Acknowledgments 291

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    Eye opener

    This book is a true eye opener. I didnt even buy the whole book yet because it $10 but the free sample alone is a life changer.
    As a spouse to a soldier who battles ptsd on a daily basis, this book really made me think and helped me understand better. It also made me cry.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 19, 2013

    I thought this book was very interesting to read because I am ve

    I thought this book was very interesting to read because I am very interested in what is happing over seas in war. The media really hides what happens. After reading this book I realized that these soldiers have not had it easy over there and they come back here and people tend to think that once they come back they will be fine and nothing else to worry about them. But that is wrong PDST is an illness that soldiers get back from a war. A journalist is writing this book and he goes and interviews his subject during the war and tries to find them also for the complete story.He talks a lot about killing a man with being a journalist in the war and what a harsh toll is can be on a man. This is what I liked about the book because i thought it was very interesting how some men that he took there stories they have no regrets at all for taking some ones life even if it wasn’t a sure threat. But other men come back and become alcoholics from this regret or feeling of sorrow.Taking ones life was a big theme of this book. He talked to one man that said he remembered his first kill it was on a boy that was going to throw a grenade at his platoon but he shot him down and after that he just went all out in killing. He went to a village and he killed some suspected but he also killed at least 6 innocent people in this doing. I could not deal with that pain inside of me and I feel like the media hides all the truth of what that really does to some one in there later years. 

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Poop

    Poop

    1 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Stop

    This book was a waste of money unless you love history and wars do not buy is

    0 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Cuss

    Cuss not nice u now know

    0 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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