The Long Walk
A Story of War and the Life That Follows
By Brian Castner
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307950871, 240pp.)
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
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Brian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them in Iraq as the head of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. Whenever IEDs were discovered, he and his men would lead the way in either disarming the deadly devices or searching through rubble and remains for clues to the bomb-makers’ identities. And when robots and other remote means failed, one technician would suit up and take the Long Walk to disarm the bomb by hand. This lethal game of cat and mouse was, and continues to be, the real war within America’s wars in the Middle East. When Brian returned stateside to his wife and family, he entered an equally inexorable struggle against the enemy within, which he comes to call the “Crazy.”
This thrilling, heartbreaking, stunningly honest book alternates between two harrowing realities: the terror, excitement, and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the unshakeable fear, anxiety, and survivor guilt that he—like so many veterans—carries inside.
Brian Castner, a graduate of Marquette University with an electrical engineering degree, served three tours in the Middle East as an officer of the U.S. Air Force—two of them as the head of an EOD unit in Iraq. In 2006, he received a Bronze Star for his service. Upon returning to the United States following his service, he consulted as a independent civilian contractor, training military EOD units on tactical bomb-disposal procedures prior to their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives in Buffalo, New York, with his wife and children.
Brian Castner commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs and investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings. He returned home a completely different man, which he details in his memoir, The Long Walk. More at NPR.org
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“Castner’s book maps out this new and sorrowful territory with the skill and focus of someone who has had to defuse a bomb inside his own body.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The Long Walk brings home in a visceral way the hidden, personal burden of war that many veterans continue to carry.” —The Boston Globe
“The enduring treachery of memory . . . remains the real, unfinished story of The Long Walk. It takes as much courage for Castner to confront that memory as it does to face an active fuse.”—The New York Times Book Review
“What makes Castner’s astonishing memoir so unique is his forthright, unflinching look at postwar life.” —Dallas Morning News
“Castner succeeds in taking readers into the mind of a man who is hopelessly scarred by war.” —USA Today
“Direct and disturbing. . . . A painful but compelling read, even as Castner finds ways to cope, at least partially, with his long walk back at home.” —Morning Edition (NPR)
“Brutally honest [and] sharply observed. . . . The Long Walk is both harrowing and poignant—an intensely personal story of what it takes not just to survive war, but also to fully leave behind the nightmare of combat and readapt to ordinary life.” —The Daily Beast
“So viscerally engaging that it’s hard to read it without shaking. Castner writes with a keen mind, sharp intellect and literary flair. . . . [and] the desperate immediacy of a man whose skin has been burned away.” —Austin American-Statesman
“He gives equal, if not more, weight to the time and effort that goes into readjusting to his family life, and his straightforward, unself-conscious writing paints an absorbing picture of war in the twenty-first century. . . . Castner’s experience isn’t everyone’s, of course, but a memoir like his can help to bridge that gap between civilians and today’s military.” —NewYorker.com
“A raw, wrenching, blood-soaked chronicle of the human cost of war. Castner’s memoir brings to mind Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front.” —Jon Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory
“A powerful book about the long cost of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms. . . . [Castner’s] honesty is refreshing and the book is written with such candor and openness that one can’t help but root for him.” —Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“Do you want to know a little something about our war in Iraq? Begin with The Long Walk, Brian Castner’s elegant, superbly written story about the bomb disposal guys. . . . Here is the reality of the exhausted mind, and of profound thought wandering all Creation: this is what I saw, this is what I did, this is what I have become.” —Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story and Close Quarters