Michael Putzel,
The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War
(Trysail, 2015)

"The irony of PTSD is that its symptoms are not an accident of war or even an unintended byproduct. They are the skills...." This is the perspective of author Michael Putzel in his book, The Price They Paid: Enduring Wounds of War.

The men of the Condor unit, a unit which is one of the main focuses of this book, go through hell during the war. They lose friends and have their lives seriously endangered. Their training prepares them to kill, and to stay alert in an almost automated way, but that training stays with them long after their military service is up.

Putzel covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, and his interest in the subject has undoubtedly stayed strong, as evidenced by this well-researched, interesting and important book that never glorifies war but tries to be honest about its human cost.

More than half of The Price They Paid consists of war stories and graphic descriptions of the almost literal hell that these soldiers faced in the jungles of Vietnam and Laos. These descriptions are important to the story, to help the reader begin to understand and empathize with these men. The rest of the book deals with the soldiers after they got back from the war. It describes their ordeals at home and the symptoms of PTSD that almost all of them exhibited.

It is shocking to see the changes in the men when they get home. The lack of order, the chasing of adrenaline rushes and the end of the big brotherhood of the military is too much for some people to handle, and combined with the PTSD, some of these men crash and burn.

An example from the book focuses on James T. Newman, a C Troop commander who was, by all accounts, an exemplary leader and soldier. Soon after he left the military, his life began a downward spiral. He suffered from paranoia, abandoned his children and at one point hit his wife because he believed she was talking about him behind his back. Depression was common, along with fits of rage and paranoia. Another example in the book is a former soldier who slept with a gun under his pillow because he feared the enemy would find him.

These men suffered immensely due to their training, their battles and the Vietnam War as a whole. This book is important for acknowledging something everybody knows, but almost nobody seems to do anything about. These men were sent to a foreign country to fight an unpopular war, and for the rest of their lives, they have lived with some of those consequences, including nightmares, paranoia and schizophrenia, they have all suffered. PTSD is gaining more recognition now and is no longer seen as a disease of cowards, but rather a byproduct of war. People now understand that when men go to kill other men, they can no longer come back the same, they will be forever changed, and books like this will help continue to make PTSD something that will be discussed by the public.

book review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

12 March 2016

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