Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel

David Finkel can write – and how. Thank You For Your Service is his second non-fiction book delving into the lives of soldiers who were on the front line in Baghdad (his first book was the incredible The Good Soldiers), but this time he’s documenting their lives back home, where post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are the battles du jour.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Finkel’s non-fiction reads like a gripping story, and actually, the lives of these soldiers have all the elements of great fiction: drama, conflict, tragedy – the lot. Returned from combat the soldiers can’t settle: they feel guilty and they’re angry. They can’t remember stuff, or they remember too much stuff. Their wives can’t deal with them, and they can’t deal with themselves. Walls are punched. Shotguns are placed into mouths. Children watch on from the sidelines and wonder if this is normal behavior.

Finkel’s writing style is immediate. It’s hard to believe he wasn’t in the basement beside Saskia as Adam had his finger trembling against the shotgun trigger. That he wasn’t watching Tim Jung write his suicide note. That he wasn’t in the therapy session as Tausolo – always so good with maths before he went to war – tried to figure out the simple logistics of buying roses for his wife to apologise for his crazy behaviour.

As Finkel notes, the army is aware of the problems, but struggles to give tangible assistance to these guys. There are programs set up to help them, but even after participating the soldiers still go home and wreak havoc on either themselves or their family. As Finkel writes, the number of soldier suicides ‘is exceeding the number of combat deaths and averaging almost one a day.’

Thank You for Your Service is an unflinching and honest depiction of life inside the heads of these returned men, and an acute account of the new battle they now face.

Gabrielle Williams