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Front toward Enemy Cover

Front toward Enemy

War, Veterans, and the Homefront

Daniel R. Green

, Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2021, 240 pages

Book Review published on: September 16, 2022

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have justifiably spurred significant scholarship about veterans dealing with their wartime service and their integration back into society after redeployment. The preponderance of this scholarship has focused on the psychological aspects of the subject. More specifically, it has keyed on the psychological effects of violence on the veteran. Obviously, the importance of this concentrated study in this area cannot be overstated.

However, author Daniel Green believes that a more comprehensive approach should be utilized in addressing veterans and their return to the homefront. In his new volume, Front toward Enemy: War, Veterans, and the Homefront, he superbly details this approach. This approach differs from others in his book’s prologue. He states, “These treatments miss the whole moral experience of these conflicts as well as the sociological, philosophical, societal, cultural, political and literary contexts within which they take place. These other factors also shape how veterans process their war experiences and are often of greater consequence than the more violent aspects of their tours” (p. x).

In a book dealing with this subject matter it is important for readers to understand the credentials of the author. Green served as a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, earning a PhD in political science from George Washington University, crafting over fifty-five articles in professional journals, publishing three books focused on the war in Afghanistan, and most importantly, serving five military and civilian tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In combination, these credentials make him extremely qualified to discuss and write on veterans and their return to the homefront.

In beginning to discuss the book in earnest, I believe Green’s own words are a good start. He states, “Front toward Enemy: War, Veterans, and the Homefront is a personal effort to use my experiences from five military and civilian tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the countless conversations I’ve had with my fellow veterans, to broaden the public discussion about veterans returning from war. I intend to provide not just a war veteran’s views but also the amplifying perspective of a political scientist as well as a reserve officer and a former defense official in order to rescue the issue of the returning veteran from the field of psychology” (p. x).

Within the pages of Front toward Enemy, Green clearly delivers on his approach. He achieves this by crafting a book which answers several questions. These include the following: (1) What was the transition experience of veterans from past wars? (2) What do veterans need to understand about themselves and other veterans? (3) What does society need to understand about veterans returning to the homefront? (4) What are the moral, sociological, philosophical, societal, cultural, political, and literary contexts which influence how veterans process their wartime experience?

To better understand the present and future, one must possess an understanding of the past. Green recognizes this and provides readers an appreciation of the homefront experiences of those veterans returning from war, in particular those from World War II and Vietnam. The author compares these experiences with those of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. An excellent example of his discussion follows: “The military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan grew up in the shadow of the legacy of the Vietnam War as well as the successes and legends of World War II and the Gulf War, tempered by the tragedy of Somalia and the Black Hawk Down incident” (p. 182).

To answer the remainder of the questions, Green delves into numerous areas and topics which will educate readers (particularly, nonveterans of Iraq and Afghanistan) and in some instances, surprise readers. These include the camaraderie of veterans, veterans’ thoughts of the phrase “thank you for your service,” military humor, stolen valor and false veterans, companionship and starting relationships in the homefront, possessing a survival mentality in many aspects of life, and the attraction of militaria items.

To further understand the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Green also includes chapters highlighting their hobbies, interests, and pursuits they entertain once back in the homefront. These include types of movies they watch, video games they play, the appeal in some to craft their war memoirs, and the desire of others to enter politics or public service. These discussions combined with the areas from above provide a solid initial foundation to begin to understand the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.

There are several strengths displayed throughout the volume that greatly assist the author in achieving his objectives. First, Green has unquestionably conducted exhaustive research in preparation of his book. Most importantly, within this research, he has interviewed a vast number of veterans. Their thoughts are the cornerstone for this book.

The second strength of the volume is the readability of the book. Before beginning the volume, I had anticipated it with academic tone and consequently, a bit of a challenge to read. I quickly found that was not the case. Green writes in an incredibly conversant style. This readability will undoubtedly expose Front toward Enemy to far greater readership.

In summary, Front toward Enemy is an extremely valuable book for both veterans and the public alike. This is a volume which is a tremendous asset in assisting veterans to understand themselves and fellow veterans and in aiding the public in beginning to understand veterans. It is with this understanding that we can begin to assist the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in dealing with their wartime service and their integration back into society after redeployment. It is also an understanding which must be continued and adapted as veterans from upcoming wars and conflicts integrate into society in the years to come.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Rick Baillergeon, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas