There was so much I loved about this book, from his humor to his battlefield descriptions peppered with pop culture and classic references. He tells a captivating story about the journey through young adulthood with stops along the way at Sandhurst, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
He talks a lot about his time as a trainer of Afghan forces and the connections he makes to those men and their officers. I think sometimes we forget when we talk about the wars and standing up an army or the deaths of Afghan soldiers that they are brothers in arms as well. Those that stand and fight forge bonds with our military men and British allies. Sometimes I think we underestimate that bond.
I am also fascinated by points in his story where the war and the outside world combine. A lot of people are so numb and/or ignorant of events that I always find it interesting when they are jolted out of their complacency.
The best example of this is a story in which Hennessey relates the aftermath of an attack and the evacuation of casualties:
The Chinook which comes thundering into the hastily prepared landing site turns out not to be the air ambulance but a diverted R & R flight, and I'll never forget the look of horror on the face of the young, possibly pretty journalist who's sitting in the back in gimpy blue helmet, unsure why her flight home has just dropped into the Green Zone, where the air is still a-rattle with fire form the ANA on the cordon, when suddenly the reality of Helmand charges on to her lap as four sweating, swearing, emotional soldiers drop a bleeding, naked, morphine-babbling black man on her brand new hiking boots.
I find myself wondering what her side of that story is. What did she take away from that experience? What were her thoughts and emotions? Did it change the way she reported on the war? Did it change her reactions, emotions, and relationships to soldiers? Did she see war in general with new eyes?
There probably are no answers to these questions but I think they are important to ask anyway. What do we do with the war when its realities are brought home? How do those realities fundamentally change us?
Those are questions I've thought about for a long time. I still don't have answers for them.
But I love this book for sparking my interest in searching for them again.