After the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Ann Jones spent a good part of a decade there working with Afghan civilians—especially women—and writing about the impact of war on their lives: the subject of Kabul in Winter (2006). That book revealed the yawning chasm between America’s promises to Afghans and its actual performance in the country. Meanwhile, Jones was pondering another evident contradiction: between the U.S. military’s optimistic progress reports to Americans and its costly, clueless failures in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. In 2010-2011, she decided to see for herself what that “progress” in Afghanistan was costing American soldiers. She borrowed some body armor and embedded with U.S. troops. On forward operating bases she saw the row of photographs of “fallen” soldiers hung on the headquarters’ wall lengthen day by day.
THEY WERE SOLDIERS: How The Wounded Return from America's Wars—The Untold Story
“For a decade, the independent journalist Ann Jones has, through her firsthand reporting of war and life on the ground
in Afghanistan, given us more of the reality of that conflict than any dozen of her well-connected colleagues in the established media, attuned as they have been to the cant and spin pouring out of official mouths. Now, she has turned her shrewd, wise, compassionate, reality-bound eye to some of the bitterest facts of all: the almost unimaginable suffering of the American soldiers wounded and otherwise impaired in the conflict. The result is a harrowing and compelling tale that is hard to bear but must be borne if we are to understand the rolling disaster this country unleashed in Afghanistan more than a decade ago.”
—Jonathan Schell, author of The Unconquerable World
“Read this unsparing, scathingly direct, and gut-wrenching account—the war Washington doesn’t want you to see.
Then see if you still believe that Americans ‘support the troops.’”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
“They Were Soldiers is an indispensable book about America’s current wars and the multiple ways they continue to wound not only the soldiers but their families and indeed the country itself. Ann Jones writes with passion and clarity about the tragedies other reporters avoid and evade.”
—Marilyn Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990
“This is a painful odyssey. Ann Jones’s superb writing makes it possible to take it in without sugar coating. Her scene painting takes you there with compassion and without flinching—no sentimental bullshit here, no lofty pity. We fly with
her in the belly of a C-17 medical evacuation from Bagram, into operating rooms of the Landstuhl European way station, more surgeries at Walter Reed, into the gymnasium for the long, determined work with prosthetics, with the physical and occupational therapists. We go with her to the homes of the families receiving the brain-injured and the psychologically and morally injured. We hear firsthand accounts by families of service members who died of their war wounds in the
mind and spirit, after making it back in one piece...physically. Her breadth of vision includes even contractors, whom most dismiss from their minds and forget. Read this book. You will be a wiser and better citizen.”
—Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD, author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming
“They Were Soldiers is not easy to read, but it is beautifully written. I would warn any veterans before recommending it
to them: it created a very emotional response. I want all of my family members and close friends to read this book in order to have some kind of understanding of my experience. “ —Joyce Wagner, IVAW
To buy the book, select a bookseller.
David Swanson writes:
“Ann Jones' new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing. In human terms, it's overwhelming.”
“Know a young person considering joining the military? Give them this book.”
“Know a person not working to end war? Give them this book.”
Prashanth Kamalakanthan writes:
“They Were Soldiers is as much about the debasement of military institutions as it is about the dignity of the people caught inside them. War simply passes from one body to the next, vessels for violence damaged along the way. Jones follows this path of destruction unflinchingly, accomplishing one of the most moving antiwar texts we have today.”
Alexander Reed Kelly writes:
"With these rare revelations, Jones gives readers a basis for a conversation that is necessary to the healing of soldiers whose lives, bodies and minds were deformed by war, and to the mending of the nation at large. They Were Soldiers was written to give people alienated and estranged by war a chance to find their way back to one another... [an] invaluable public service."
Excerpts from They Were Soldiers: