Stories abound of soldiers coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who find themselves unable to cope with civilian life. They suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and many commit suicide.
What you hear less of are stories of those who survive, and in some cases thrive, by involving themselves in work that helps others.
Joe Klein’s new book, “Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home,” is about two such men, Eric Greitens and Jake Wood, who form nonprofit organizations that enlist other veterans to help with disaster relief and community service projects.
“Charlie Mike” is military jargon for “continue the mission” and refers to soldiers who serve their country after concluding their combat duties.
Klein, who wrote the best-selling novel “Primary Colors” about Bill Clinton’s run for the presidency, told the AJT in an interview that positive stories arising from war don’t get enough coverage, whereas tales of woe proliferate across the media, and he sought to redress the balance with this book.
Greitens, a Navy SEAL who was wounded in Iraq, in 2007 founded the Mission Continues, an “organization that empowers veterans facing the challenge of adjusting to life at home to find new missions.”
Marine sniper Wood started Team Rubicon, which sent rescue groups to assist victims of the Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Sandy and the recent floods in South Carolina, among other disasters.
Not all these valiant deeds yielded positive results, however, and Klein does not shy away from revealing sadder truths. Part of the book focuses on the mental deterioration of a troubled vet named Clay Hunt, who killed himself in 2011 despite Wood’s efforts to lift his spirits and keep him occupied.
The book reads like a novel, with extensive dialogue among the main players that Klein gathered from lengthy interviews with those involved. “Charlie Mike” is a powerful story well told, but it cannot diminish the ultimate futility of war and the terrible toll it can take on its participants.
Joe Klein appears at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8.