Wars are violent, loud, and gruesome. But combat is fleeting, and for young troops, what remains is a lifetime of untangling the dense consequences of decisions and actions made (or not made) in uncompromising conditions. A single moment in combat can bring a soldier home with honor or send him back broken and ashamed, unprepared for what Washington Post staff writer David Finkel calls the “after-war.”
In Thank You for Your Service, Finkel exhaustively documents the course of the after-war for the members of an Army infantry battalion known as the 2-16 Rangers, stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. In his first book, The Good Soldiers (2009), Finkel chronicled the battalion’s bloody 15-month tour in Iraq. He spent eight months embedded with the unit and was present for many of the pivotal moments described in the book; 2-16 was responsible for patrolling the area where two Reuters journalists and several Iraqis were killed by U.S. helicopter fire in an attack that was recorded in a video and released by WikiLeaks under the title Collateral Murder.