Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes
This book is epic. One of those that every human being should read. Just so that we are reminded how lucky we are to be free and alive and that we owe our lives to our veterans. Just so that we are forced to live a day in the life of a combat veteran. Or picture being their Mother, Father, sister, brother, relation.
This book is tough. It doesn’t give it to you gently. There are no holds barred. And it’s necessary. Necessary for us, the readers, to truly live out and feel what these Marines (and all military) went through, and still go through.
It is amazing to see the bonds of brotherhood that are forged from the beginning of training, strengthened to that of steel in combat and honored throughout their lives. To be a witness to the self-sacrifice made in the name of brotherhood and country was an inspiration. I cannot believe that men and women willingly put themselves through the type of hell described in this book; the forces of nature, the diseases, the wildlife, and of course the imminent dangers of war. For the love of their country. For the loyalty of their brotherhood.
And to really, truly get an idea of what takes place during a battle is terrifying. It appears that all their boot camps and hell weeks and training are superfluous. Luck is the only reason any of them ever come home. Luck. Lucky to have been out of the line of machine gun fire. Lucky to have stepped to the right rather than the left onto a mine. Lucky to have been in the back of the line heading in to ambush, rather than the front. Lucky to have mess hall duty rather than radio operator duty the day of the battle. You name the situation…luck is what kept you alive out there. The only reason those soldiers need the training is to understand their weapons, inside and out, and commands, and for the sake of the relationships made. Otherwise, the benefit to training is solely for officers. Officers are the ones that need to be able to strategize; about position, tactics, rescue, etc.
It’s a scary thought…that the only reason your son or daughter will make it out alive is because luck was on their side. And it’s a horrible reality for the survivors to carry with them for the rest of their lives; that they were luckier than their brethren, which is why they made it.
You can also completely imagine yourself metamorphosing into a killer, filled with hatred for those who have brought this situation upon you and yours. I was horrified to realize that I had come to the point where I was cheering when I heard the Marines in Bravo Co. had killed another “gook”. But, naturally, I wanted it to end. And I ached for those lost lives, the maimed, their loved ones and the Marines left alive to finish fighting and live with guilt for making out of the bush for the rest of their lives.
It is devastating to hear that 22 veterans, a day, are killing themselves. But I can see why now. What they go through is nothing we can even closely relate to. The horrors they witness, the conflicting emotions, the fear, the doubt, the nightmares they will relive forever.
My takeaway from this book is that I am one of those who is fortunate enough to live, and to live freely, because of our veterans. And I can never thank them enough.