It’s early afternoon on Memorial Day and Dunreith is out shopping for food for our afternoon barbeque. Thunder clouds are starting to gather ominously overhead, and we are looking forward to having friends and family over for what traditionall has marked the beginning of summer in Chicago.
Of course, for hundreds of thousands of American families throughout our history, Memorial Day has not been a day of celebration, but of solemn remembrance and honoring of the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country.
Here are a couple of books that chronicle veterans’ struggles that might be useful during these times of honor and memory:
Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, by Jonathan Shay. A MacArthur Award winner, Shay is not trained classics scholar, but explored The Iliad and found direct parallels between Homer’s tale and the experiences of the Vietnam veterans he counseled in his clinical psychiatric practice. Others like Danielle Allen have linked the classics to contemporary life, and Shay’s work stands out both for its connection to the Iliad’s narrative arc and the questions of right and wrong the soldiers in the story and his patients confronted.
Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr. , by Lewis B. Puller, Jr. This Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir tells the story of a scion of a Southern military family attempting to rebuild his life after becoming wheelchair bound in Vietnam. That Puller eventually killed himself lends the work an additional layer of poignance.
What books, movies or art about war and veterans have impacted you?
How should we best remember their service?