The Worst Years of Our Lives
Two books show how American vets continue to suffer, despite empty fanfare on the home front
Thank You for Your Service
by David Finkel
Sarah Crichton Books
$26.00 List Price
I'm so pissed off after reading these books I can hardly type. But my ire begins with baseball—and the same is true for Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who lost a son in Iraq.
Been to a game lately? Try to grab just a few hours of peace and fun, and what do you get? A toxic brew of manufactured religious piety and tin-hat patriotism, served up in force-feedings of "God Bless America" and coercive "salutes" to "wounded warriors" bused in for a game.
Bacevich, a West Point graduate who now writes perceptive, bristling essays and books from his perch at Boston University, puts his finger on it. "A masterpiece of contrived spontaneity," he calls one such display at Fenway Park, a Fourth of July pregame spectacle with a huge American flag draped over the left-field wall, Air Force and Navy color guards strutting about, and a Marine chorus singing the national anthem as four US Air Force F-15C Eagles scream overhead.
"The sellout crowd roars its approval," Bacevich writes in Breach of Trust, his sixth and perhaps angriest book since he retired from the Army in the early 1990s. It's an "event [that] leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and not least of all about themselves—precisely as it was meant to do."
They probably think veterans revel in it, too. Well, we don't, really. When the seventh-inning stretch comes and I hear the dread ballpark public-address announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and doff your hats for the singing of 'God Bless America,'" I head for the beer stand. Likewise, I feel queasy about being
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