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A different kind of memorial

In 2007 and 2008, film directors Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington spent more than a year and a half documenting the lives of a small group of American G.I.s stationed in a remote outpost in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistan border.  Junger’s book, “War,” and their Academy Award nominated documentary, “Restrepo,” documented the intense combat and camaraderie that the men experiences as they were attacked by – and counter-attacked – an enemy they often couldn’t even see.

But the film didn’t tell the whole story.  Sebastian Junger stayed in touch with many of the soldiers from his time in Afghanistan as they struggled to reintegrate into civilian life. Among the many stories they told him, one recurring theme was about how these men often come back from war burdened by feelings and emotions that too often go unexpressed, to the soldiers’ detriment, and says Junger, to our country’s as well.

Junger wrote about these men in a powerful essay in the New York Times called “Why Would Anyone Miss War?” In that piece, he proposed a provocative idea for how we might help those soldiers, and ourselves, come to grips with what he calls “the central tragedy of war.”  We asked Sebastian Junger to talk with Need to Know about his possible remedy:


  • marianmcafee

    When  I went to the Vietnam war memorial it as surprised how deeply touching the whole experience was and how personal it became for me.   Having a memorial helps people and is the right thing to do. When  many innocent people die as a result of war they should without a doubt be acknowledged as a sign of respect and honoring of their lives.  It would help the healing process for the soldiers who participated and whatever we can do to repurpose their lives is another “right thing to do”.  
    This got me to thinking about all the people who’ve died as innocent victims of other things (abuse), etc. and that this idea can prove a frontrunner to this countries healing of war and other unhumane acts.  I’m so glad I read this piece . 

  • Shibdon

    I think this sounds like a great idea. …BTW, it’s “camaraderie,” not “comraderie.”

  • Will G.

    In 2008 I went back to the village in Vietnam our Marine unit was assigned to in 1969. There were civilian deaths in the village during my tour and I went back for the purpose of expressing my sorrow and regret for these incidences. That experience left me a changed person. I’ve begun writing a memoir with hopes that, if published, will provide insight to other vets, their families and the VA’s mental health service providers. I’m so pleased that someone in the media has started a dialog about this issue. It’s long overdue.   

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, this has been corrected!

  • Garth

    As a member of Veterans For Peace, we’ve been trying to draw attention to the ‘colateral damage’ (civilian casualities). Often many more civilians are killed during war than soldiers. If Sebastian Junger is leading the charge for a civilian memorial in Washington D.C. I’m certain VFP would appreciate his ‘co-sponsorship’. Thanks Sebastian; you continue to do good and important work.