Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review of Soft Spots by Clint Van Winkle

Synopsis: "A powerful, haunting, provocative memoir of a Marine in Iraq—and his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a system trying to hide the damage done

Marine Sergeant Clint Van Winkle flew to war on Valentine’s Day 2003. His battalion was among the first wave of troops that crossed into Iraq, and his first combat experience was the battle of Nasiriyah, followed by patrols throughout the country, house to house searches, and operations in the dangerous Baghdad slums.

But after two tours of duty, certain images would not leave his memory—a fragmented mental movie of shooting a little girl; of scavenging parts from a destroyed, blood-spattered tank; of obliterating several Iraqi men hidden behind an ancient wall; and of mistakenly stepping on a “soft spot,” the remains of a Marine killed in combat. After his return home, Van Winkle sought help at a Veterans Administration facility, and so began a maddening journey through an indifferent system that promises to care for veterans, but in fact abandons many of them.

From riveting scenes of combat violence, to the gallows humor of soldiers fighting a war that seems to make no sense, to moments of tenderness in a civilian life ravaged by flashbacks, rage, and doubt, Soft Spots reveals the mind of a soldier like no other recent memoir of the war that has consumed America."

My Review: As you can imagine, this is a difficult book to read. Soft Spots gives us only a tiny glimpse into the struggles a combat vet faces, the confusing chaos of PTSD and the lack of helpful staff at the VA. I can't imagine the way he basically was living in two worlds and the frustration he had trying to figure out what normal life should be. I also think he brought up a very good point that after the constant work of military lifestyle, normal daily civilian life can leave too much open time to fill. Soft Spots definitely reminds me not to judge or to assume why some people are the way they are, vets have been through so much worse than any of us civilians could ever imagine. Remember those who are still struggling as you eat your burgers and watch the fireworks with friends and family this Independence Day.
My Rating: This is a difficult book to rate, it was a hard subject to read about and got confusing as we followed Van Winkle through his struggle with PTSD, but that is the point of the book.  I give it a rating of Three Paws.

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