"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

21 August 2009

"The Terrorists Ate My Homework"

Book of the Week:
As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard
Author: Christian Davenport

Davenport is one of the few reporters to take full advantage of the embed process. Not only does he follow the unit at war, he follows them home. While he covers the wartime experiences, his true interest is the return home. This is made clear from the first page. He quotes Tim O'Brien's research into the Greek origins of the word nostalgia: "The pain of returning home."

The book's strengths lie in the characters he has chosen to follow. All six individuals are at different points in their lives. From a Vietnam vet headed to Iraq and his wife, to a sorority girl, a VMI grad, a young LT, and a twenty-something looking for direction, each character demonstrates the difficulties and special challenges faced by the Guard.

Because of its focus on citizen soldiers who are also college students, or returning to complete their educations, As You Were is an important book for college professors and administrators to read. College students who balance the academic and military worlds face challenges that need to be understood by those interacting with them.

The title of this post comes from a chapter focused on Miranda. She is in a sorority, a good student, and a Black Hawk door gunner. When she is called up, she has to convince her professors to allow her to complete independent studies, while at war, so that she can graduate on time. Some refuse, insisting she must be physically in the class to get credit. Even those who agree to the independent studies probably do not grasp what she is undertaking. She describes trying to complete a paper for a class while under mortar attack. These are facts that academia needs to consider for their student/soldiers.

Additionally, all of the characters who return to a campus after deployment speak of their difficulty fitting back into college life which mirrors the general experience of Guardsmen trying to step back into their civilian lives. They speak of feeling as if they are the sole representitives of a war that their peers don't seem to remember exists.

One character tries to discuss her GI benefits with the university administration, and they do not know who their mandated-by-law GI benefit counselor is. These types of stories are a failure of the universities to understand the needs of veterans. These stories underscore the need for the list of "military friendly" schools.

Davenport's book is an informative look at what we as a nation ask of the members of our National Guard and what is often "the pain of returning home."

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