In this provocative, impassioned memoir, Jerad W. Alexander reveals what it was like to be raised on war, vividly recreating the masculine fantasies of American heroism and patriotism that animated his childhood—and at the same time brilliantly dismantling those myths.
To many outsiders, joining the military can be a path out of a difficult life, a chance to acquire vocational training, a college scholarship, a patriotic career. But to those, like Alexander, whose parents, stepfather, and grandparents served, and who grew up on American military bases around the world, enlisting was a way of life. The only way. Young Jerad’s obsession with all things military—from guns to war games to the trappings of uniforms, medals, and the movies and books of Vietnam—was bottomless, and as soon as he was able, he joined the US Marines. Only then, on the ground in Iraq, part of the same war his parents had fought before him—a war we are still embroiled in today, years later—did he begin to question all that he had taken on faith.
With courage and raw power, Alexander brings to the fore vital questions: Is America in fact exceptional? Are the “bad guys” actually easy to identify? And most important, are our causes always just?
This powerful debut joins the canon of essential war literature—books like Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead or Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried—helping readers understand the violent and self-replicating mythology of American patriotism, from the eloquent perspective of an enlisted man—not some elite warrior, but a simple volunteer.