Americans are celebrating Memorial Day with barbecues and volleyball games. A few – mostly the friends and relatives of veterans and soldiers – will think about the costs of war, the reasons people fight. But in this era of global conflict, while presidential candidates with few-to-no stakes in the game make war-frenzied declarations about how the United States should handle global politics, it’s worth reflecting on prior conflicts.
Here are five must read stories for this Memorial Day.
In Blackhawk Down, Mark Bowden chronicles the Battle of Mogadishu in 29 stories, replete with archival video and multimedia, launched on the Philadelphia Inquirer website in 1997. The writing is terse and action packed, dragging readers into the chaos of war.
The Things They Carried
If you’re looking for frontline fiction about what it felt like to be a soldier in Vietnam, Tim O’Brien’s short story “The Things They Carried,” published in 1986, takes readers into the lives of soldiers through the mundane and into a world of horror and grief. If the story isn’t enough for you, the novel, by the same name, is worth a read too.
The journalists who travel to the battlefields and document the horrors of war keep the public – all too often ignorant of what war is like – informed and engaged with the lives of soldiers and civilians. But these reporting jobs come with a risk. Newsweek put together this list of photojournalists killed in 2014.
A year after World War II ended, John Hersey published “Hiroshima” in The New Yorker. It famously took up a full issue. What happened immediately after the atomic bomb was dropped? What was life like in those following weeks? Hersey’s interviews answer these questions.
My Long War
Dexter Filkins brought readers into the heart of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In “My Long War,” he details a series of jogs he took in Iraq. His reflections reveal the contours of that war. “Running at night — it was madness,” he wrote. “I was courting death or at least a kidnapping. The capital was a free-for-all; it was in a state of nature. There was no law anymore, no courts, nothing — there was nothing at all. They kidnapped children now; they killed them and dumped them in the street. The kidnapping gangs bought and sold people; it was like its own terrible ecosystem.”
Photo credit: Jim Bowen, Creative Commons, Flickr.