I just began working as a nurse on the inpatient psych unit at the Naval Hospital 2 weeks ago, and decided to check a few books out to familiarize myself with the psych world. This one caught my eye, especially because as I thumbed through the pages I saw that it was written in a chronological, “storyline” manner but with important statistics and scientific explanations sprinkled throughout. Perfect for me because I almost always get bored with non-fiction once the “I’m smart, I read facts” mantra wears off.
The book was written by a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, and it follows the story of a handful of soldiers from the 506th Infantry Regiment, AKA “Band of Brothers,” whose lives followed a similar path during and after deployments, eventually ending with drugs, murder, and/or suicide. Phillips works to connect deployments (especially multiple), disparities within the military’s mental health care screening, diagnosis and treating processess, and skewed social perspectives with the prevalence of PTSD – which can often spiral into the “symptoms” of major depression, crime and subtance abuse. The reason this specific group was focused on was because the soldiers of this Regiment were proud descendants of the original “Band of Brothers” during WWII, a group which was considered to be especially efficient and lethal due to their special methods of training. These modern-day Brothers saw multiple deployments; from Korea directly to Iraq (making for a 2-year continuous deployment), almost immediately followed by another Iraq tour less than a year later.
My review is basically that this book was awesome; it gripped my attention and I finished it in just over a weekend. It reads like a crime novel but is educational and insightful. It is incredibly painful and emotionally draining to read at times; in fact, more than once I had to put it down and sort of reflect. The gore of war was somewhat shocking and “gross,” but what really got me was watching the “characters” spiral downward, obviously in excruciating mental anguish and carrying on without anyone to help them.
However, the reason I love this book so much is that, as I read on, I learned more and more about myself and why I do what I do. Over the years I have been gradually formulating my reasons for becoming a nurse (“I am able to act as the pivoting point and an advocate between the complicated medical world and the rest of the population”), why I joined the Navy (“a good nurse goes where he or she is needed most without question or bias”) and most recently….why I want to be a psych nurse. This book brought my first two reasonings together and sealed the deal for me. The more and more I read, the more I saw myself as the person who could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been there. This book and all the soldiers/marines/sailors affected by combat and war are the reason why I do what I do. I exist to tell them that what they are experiencing is normal and very real, that it will be hard but that there is help and hope.
This book was the exclamation point that my new “career” needed, and it made me more excited than ever to be putting my skills to great use. In the near future, the scope of military medicine will be shifting to critical and psychiatric care due to the “end” of the war, and I couldn’t think of a better time for me to be right where I am, doing just what I need to do.