United States former marine Phil Klay brings to life the many aspects of war, both at home and in the Middle East, with his novel “Redeployment.” Based on the recent wars in the Middle East, Klay tells the fictional tales of eleven different soldiers—from a lance corporal to a mortuary affairs marine.
The novel is broken up into eleven chapters for each story. Some take place right on the battlefield, while others focus on how it feels to be a veteran returning home. The stories help shed light on what a soldier actually experiences in war. Civilians do not often receive the grotesque details of battle, but this book gives civilians just that—the images most of us will never see in person.
There are a lot of interesting stories in Klay’s book, but my favorite has to be the very first one titled “Redeployment.” This chapter begins with a soldier describing “Operation Scooby,” an improvised mission to shoot dogs lapping up the blood of dead people. “We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot…First time was instinct. I hear O’Leary go, ‘Jesus,’ and there’s a skinny brown dog lapping up blood the same way he’d lap up water from a bowl…And that’s the last straw, I guess, and then it’s open season on dogs.”
As an animal lover, I also thought about this operation a lot while reading—not necessarily because the soldiers were shooting dogs, but more because the soldier telling the story feels bad about it. Out of all the shootings and missions he has been involved in, he feels guilty for shooting dogs, and when he returns home to the states, he learns his own dog is dying, and he ends up shooting it to put it out of its misery.
This book is interesting and powerful. One minute you are in Fallujah learning about how dead bodies are picked up off the battlefield or how military chaplains speak to psychologically injured soldiers, and then you are back in the states learning about how a soldier who survived an IED explosion is getting along, or how veterans struggle living a day-to-day life with their families.
I have friends who are currently in the U.S. Marine Corps, and although they are not stationed in the Middle East, I have always been curious of what actually happens in war. I wanted to know what goes through soldiers’ heads after they kill someone or one of their buddies dies, and this book does not hold back. Most of the stories are sad, and if you cannot handle crude jokes and a lot of cursing, then you might not like this book, but this book is as close to war reality as we civilians are ever going to get.