We see them every time we go to the airport: soldiers returning home from war, re-entering the world of civilian life. Sometimes we feel moved to approach the man or woman in uniform, and say, “Thank you for your service.” But how do they really feel?
For Michael Anthony, who served in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, coming home after working in a war zone caused many moments of deep disconnect. “From a veteran’s perspective,” he said, “people have no idea what they’re thanking us for.” Once back in civilian life, he added, veterans are shouldering enormous pain that those who haven’t served can’t really imagine.
In his first book, “Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq,” Anthony wrote about his time serving as an emergency-room technician in the Army; now, in “Civilianized: A Young Veteran’s Memoir,” the Bridgewater native looks at those first few months back. “I think there was a real need for a coming-home memoir,” he said.
For Anthony, who enlisted at 17 and turned 21 in Iraq, that included returning to Massachusetts hooked on Vicodin. “I came home with a lot of bad habits,” he said, “just apathetic, just kind of gave up on the world.” And what made it worse was the romanticized version of the war he had just left. Anthony said he wanted “to share true war stories — the stuff behind the scenes, real stuff, real people.”
Writing, first on his own and to earn his master’s in creative writing from Lesley, helped him. There’s dark humor in both books, and, he hopes, honesty. “I decided to share my story in hopes that it could help other vets,” Anthony said. “Or anyone, really, who had that dark time in their life.’'
Along with Chris Walsh (“Cowardice: A Brief History”), Anthony will read at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, at Porter Square Books.
Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.