What They Signed Up For: True Stories by Ordinary Soldiers

by Jeb Wyman

They grew up on wheat farms in Eastern Washington, on a reservation in Oklahoma, in military housing on an Air Force base in Arizona. They signed up to be Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors, and they became medics, truck drivers, mechanics, and infantrymen. They enlisted to honor family tradition, to find purpose in their lives, to lift themselves out of poverty, to be patriots. And they went to war.

In What They Signed Up For, edited by Jeb Wyman and published by Blue Ear Books, 18 American veterans tell their stories of going to war and life after they came home. In the cities of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, they witnessed the carnage of suicide bombs and survived daily mortar attacks. They put friends into body bags and saw others grievously wounded. They saw the effects of American firepower on civilians. They lived through the hellishness of war.

For many combat veterans, the war didn’t end when they took off their uniform. The psychological ravages of combat are as old as war, and although we now call it “post-traumatic stress disorder,” the invisible wounds of war run deeper, and are more painful, than America wants to know. War burdens the men and women who experience it with unbearable guilt for having survived when their brothers in arms did not. War causes “moral injury,” a wound to the heart from experiencing war’s indifference to our belief in right and wrong. Our veterans aren’t dying only on the battlefield—the cost of war continues back home.

Read Blue Ear Books publisher Ethan Casey’s Foreword to What They Signed Up For.