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Book Review – Two Wars

January 22, 2014

“We can do things with our hands and weapons better than anyone – kill with any weapon from any position with either hand, or kill with only our hands – and yet hours before, several of us sat at a Bible study, exploring and discussing the Psalms. It’s such a strange reconciliation – the life of a warrior with the life of the faithful. And we are warriors.”[1]

That is the crux of the book Two Wars – the intersection of warrior and faith, of physical and spiritual, of spiritual and psychological. It is written by Nate Self, a former Army Ranger who had been involved in one of the defining battles of the early portion of the war in Afghanistan. This battle was graphically deadly leaving images imprinted in the decorated Rangers minds for years to come.

Self breaks his book into two major sections that are simply called: “Part 1” and “Part 2.” The first part is a dynamic account of the training and service time of Self. More importantly, it records in direct terms his account of the battle on Takur Ghar. The second portion describes in fleeting terms Self’s battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His words here are far less linear than in the first part, but understandably so.

I highly recommend this book because of both sections unique contribution to the reader. The first section is a realistic account of a young man who was drawn to the military and you get to know him through his accounts of his early life. You then become invested in the battle he and his comrades are embroiled in. Your heart races as the action intensifies and then slows as they sit in wait for the next attack. You are struck with the loss of each man who dies.

This is very important for the Christian reader, because Christians tend to be overly patriotic or hardline pacifists. This section allows you to identify with Self and his men, and brings you through the battle. The reader will find the lines between patriotism and pacifism getting blurred as you desire that the men survive the battle. You will care less about the reason they are there and pacifism will matter less and less as you hope Self and his men will survive. This is an issue each Christian must face without the sanitized view of war philosophy brings to the table. After all, real war is messy and nasty. It is very real and not philosophical. The first section of the book will provide a realistic, yet not glamorized account, of the reality of combat.

The second half of the book is just as important for the Christian reader for a similar reason. As Self describes his battle with PTSD, you will immediately notice a less clear, less precise story. That is part of how those who battle with this issue go through life. As you read farther and farther into this second section you will be a little less patriotic and a little more pacifist. You will be angry that the men and women of the armed forces have to deal with these issues. You will be even more angry that the families have to suffer also.

This book will force you to consider and reconsider your views on patriotism and pacifism. You will be forced to ask if the objective is worth the human cost. You will view war and the consequences of war differently. You will understand the confusion the veteran with PTSD goes through on a daily basis. You will learn just how hard a family has to battle for the survival of their loved one when they return home from the war zone. Please read this book in an effort to honor those who have and are serving.

[1] Nate Self. Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts – Abroad and Within. (Carol Steam, IL: Tyndale Publishing, 2008). xvii

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