The Longer We Were There (Paperback)
A Memoir of a Part-Time Soldier (Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creati #32)
University of Georgia Press, 9780820355665, 208pp.
Publication Date: September 15, 2019
The war in Afghanistan creates an urgency for telling stories--between soldiers, as they hand off missions to each other, and between soldiers and civilians, trying to explain what is going on--while also denying a lot of the context that is important for the telling of that story. The landscape is so mountainous and isolating that one incident or anecdote might not fit into a bigger picture beyond itself. A patrol may have no effect on the one that comes next. The war has ground itself into such a stasis that it is hard to see movement or plot. Yet we're there. We have to say something. We have to be accountable, even though the circumstances complicate the ability to talk about it while simultaneously creating a constant yearning to do so.
The Longer We Were There follows a part-time soldier's experience over seven years in the Iowa Army National Guard. He enlists at seventeen into the infantry, then bounces between college classes, army training, disaster relief, civilian jobs, a deployment in Afghanistan--first on the Afghan-Pakistani border, then into a remote valley in the Hindu Kush Mountains--and finally comes home. His stories are about having one foot on each side of the civilian-military divide, the difficulty of describing one side to those on the other, and how, as a consequence of this difficulty, that divide gets replicated within the self.