On September 12, 2001, a year and a half after finishing his military service, Sean Davis strolled into the Oregon National Guard’s recruiting office and re-enlisted. After dropping out of art school and working a dead-end government job, September 11 gave him a new sense of purpose and direction. Follow Sean Davis’ life as he discovers the oddities of a pop-up America in a hostile desert wasteland; loses his best friend in a violent ambush; returns, critically wounded, to confinement in a place that’s not his home; deals with the fallout of PTSD and the horror of what he experienced in that war zone; and finally, as he rediscovers art and its power to heal.
About the Author
Sean Davis is a veteran of the Iraq war, a talented artist, and a gifted writer with an interesting story. He attended art school before earning his bachelor’s degree in English from Portland State University and an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. He published the novel Motivation and Toleration under the name Ian Avi and has contributed to numerous publications including the Portland Mercury, Work Magazine, and The Good Men Project. He has also appeared on 60 Minutes and is cofounder of Hubris Press in Portland.
Table of Contents
The Big Game 25
Robots Love Car Bombs 32
Trained Stupid 37
The Part Where I Have Drunken Sex with a Cowgirl and Later Eat Lunch with the President of the United States of America 44
Twenty-Five-Dollar Whores, Victorian Literature, and Humane Killing Machines 57
Starving in the Belly of a Whale 75
The Kid 84
The Cradle of Civilization 98
Be Polite, Be Professional, and Be Prepared to Kill Everyone You Meet 106
Painting Daisies in Valhalla 115
The Shit Sandwich 123
Tea at the Baghdad Zoo 138
Chicken Coops and Movie Stars 147
The Worst of It 151
In the Fade 163
The Punch Line 168
I Flew Over 2,000 Miles Completely Naked 175
Purgatory Looked a Lot Like Texas 179
Attempted Murder 185
Army Ants 189
The Blast Supper 192
The Life of the Party 198
A Bright, Shining Star Is Born, Then Fades Out Completely 207
Half of 60 Minutes 212
Dying the Hemingway 224
Pearls before Swine 227
The End of Staff Sergeant Sean Davis 232
Captain Intenso Rides Again 236
The Boys Make It Home 243
Still Taking Orders 248
The Einherjar 253
Break Glass in Case of War 259
Flying Sharks and Zombie Squirrels 266
Terminology: All Those Things a Person Needs to Know to Be a Good Infantry Soldier 281
Ooligan Press 286
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Only those who have experienced combat can truly understand it, but Sean Davis brings you in close in this incredible memoir. Davis holds nothing back as he recounts his experiences in the Army after 9-11. His lively, good-humored tone makes this a relatively quick read, and keeps a very serious subject light enough to approach and get through. There is a lot of swearing and talk of drugs, alcohol and sex (nothing explicit) in this book, so if that kind of thing bothers you, you may have some difficulty. If you can handle that, it's well-worth the read. Davis does a great job writing a coherent narrative about a very complicated subject. He writes about his difficulties deployed and back home bluntly but without bitterness. Highly recommended for anyone who knows someone struggling with PTSD. I wouldn't read it without some tissues nearby, though.
Sean Davis' "Wax Bullet War" is taking a special place on my book shelf. There are plenty of books that have already been written. Take out all of the fictional books written by people who never served in the military, let alone served in a war zone. Your list got much smaller. Now take out the books that are non-fictional, but use the book to showcase the heroics of a person or group of people. Your list is much more manageable. Take what's left and pull out the ones dealing with the Iraq war, told from a soldiers point of view that shows what really happens before, during, and after the war - with warts and all showing. You will probably be left with "Wax Bullet War." Davis does an excellent job of capturing all of the little nuances about being sent into a combat zone, specifically as a member of a "Reserve Unit" or National Guard Unit. I can speak to this from a unique perspective - I was activated by the Marine Reserves for Desert Storm. Reading this book brought back many emotions in me - one of which was the realization that even 20 years later, many things just haven't changed. Troops are still being asked to perform dangerous missions with substandard equipment, poor planning, non-existent intel (one of the missions given to Davis consists of a PowerPoint slide with shapes and lines that really just depicted a general idea of what they were supposed to accomplish). This "office style" type of leadership would be laughable, except real soldiers are involved. The person who sends out these young men into harms way has the daunting task of pressing the "print" button, and telling someone to make it happen. Those with the skin in the game usually don't take their parts in the play so lightly. I appreciate that Davis does not go out of his way to portray himself as a hero or a victim in "Wax Bullet War." As he states in the book, he knew what he was getting himself into. This is where people who write about wars who have never been there miss the point, because they just don't get this mindset. Civilians who have never been asked to sacrifice for people they don't even know will never "get" the people who give up material wealth, some of the best years of their youth, and possibly their lives for an idea and people that they have been thrown together with as part of a "unit." Davis has accomplished the daunting feat of putting all of his raw emotions into words allowing the reader to share in his feelings, while at the same time keeping the focus on what was going on around him. This is captured beautifully when dealing with the parts before, during, and especially after Davis' time in country. While traveling in Norfolk, Virginia I had "Wax Bullet War" with me sitting on the table. A man with a Navy hat on walked up to me a said "That is an excellent book" and walked away. I finished it that night, and that Sailor knew a good book when he read one. I write this next statement and truly hope Sean Davis reads this, because I know he will understand: From all of the soldiers across generations who are carrying scars that will never be seen, can not be shown can not be "fixed" with a surgery or procedure, and will not be recognized with a medal of purple and the profile of our first president - thank you for putting pen to paper and beautifully describing what many of us would like to express to our loved ones but can't put it into words.
It's 2014, and the war is technically over, but not necessarily for our troops. I picked up this book because I loved Generation Kill by Evan Wright. I loved reading The Wax Bullet War for drawing me such a clear picture of what happened over there and what it's been like for our soldiers after coming home - without any political biases. Combines accounts of camaraderie, hilarious soldier humor, and emotional inner monologue to make for a terrific read!
This book is a compelling read for anyone in search of a deeper understanding of the true sacrifices made by our veterans. Honestly and beautifully written, it is a deeply personal narrative that explores the realities of war, the strength of bonds made in combat, and the devastating effects of PTSD. Davis has an engaging voice and his easy, dark humor makes this book entertaining as well as moving. Highly recommended.