Volunteers: Growing Up in the Forever War by Jerad W. Alexander

Jerad Alexander grew up smelling the burn of aircraft fuel… stateside and across the Pacific in Japan, he lived on Air Force bases. He soaked up the mythos of the all-powerful US military might. He planned for years to enlist when he graduated from high school and eventually joined the marines. Wanting to get ‘in the shit,’ he enlists, volunteers… and is sent over to “the sandbox.” Alexander quickly realizes that the romantic notions he filled his head with growing up don’t exactly match up with the ambushes, the heat, and the IEDs.

It’s hard for Alexander to see the active pursuits of the War on Terror in the missions and assignments he’s given. I’m not going to go into the conclusions he comes to about the military and its purpose, but it’s a worthy journey to join him on. He starts as a military brat seeing the fixed view, the pomp and circumstance and that comprises half the chapters, but every other chapter is of life after enlistment. These chapters feature a very different style… while it’s not the shaky camera of the embedded reporter, it’s close at times. I think Alexander wanted to create a raw look at the anxiety and fog of war. It works in most places.

Volunteers is a good book for those looking to peel back the curtain on the daily life of the grunts. I will be recommending it a friend of mine who works at the local VA.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Algonquin Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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