Homeward Bound: American Veterans Return from War
by Richard Taylor
URLink Print and Media

"It changed the demographics of society, distributed wealth more evenly, and made the United States a land of opportunity again: veterans supplied the energy."

The quote above refers to the G.I. Bill of Rights that was drawn up shortly after World War II to meet perhaps one of the greatest numbers of veterans needing federal assistance in America’s history. It was certainly an improvement over the government’s response to the veterans of World War I, who faced over 200 infantrymen with armed rifles and fixed bayonets led by General Douglas MacArthur when they camped out in Washington to demand the pensions that they had been promised for serving. Discrimination against Korean War veterans for “losing” the war coupled with a McCarthy-era suspicion of them being “brainwashed” by communists shows how political and social climates can influence the treatment of returning veterans. Of course, the Vietnam War is perhaps one of the country’s most politically polarizing conflicts, with many veterans facing social ostracism and alienation upon their return.

In ten chapters, the text effectively describes the major and minor wars that America has engaged in, from the first Revolutionary War for independence to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The causes and course of each conflict are shown, followed by poignant personal retellings of the aftermath facing the young men and women returning from war. The one major development in treatment and reintegration that emerges is the increased awareness of PTSD. The book does a great job of describing what returning soldiers from Iraq typically suffer from, such as flashbacks, depression, and outbursts of rage and anger. The detailed summaries of the wars the nation has engaged in are valuable, but the effort at “homecoming” by battle-scarred combatants after these conflicts is what the narrative sets out to tell. The result is an informative and moving celebration of the fighting men and women who have served.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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