Michael Pitre is a graduate of Louisiana State University, where he was a double major in history and creative writing. In 2002, he joined the Marines, deploying twice to Iraq and attaining the rank of Captain before leaving the service in 2010 to get his MBA at Loyola.
He lives in New Orleans.
I was only a year removed from active duty when I began working on this novel in early 2011. The tempo of military life, sharp with conviction and generous in camaraderie, lingered like a tooth ache as I returned to the civilian world.
I realize now that by staying up late to write, and digging through memories of the war for textures to layer on this work of fiction, I was saying a final good-bye to a way of life I’d loved and scorned in equal measure.
The Marine Corps is self-selecting. The vast majority of Iraq veterans volunteered to serve during wartime, and I never met a Marine who signed up under the false impression that combat would resemble a video game. We all understood that our war would be upsetting, unforgiving, and, if we survived, life-altering.
But we weren’t prepared for the years that followed, when we came home to find that the war had made us strangers.
In tribal societies, warriors fight in full view of their families. When a warrior kills, his mother watches him do it. There are no mysteries, no secrets. In modern war, nations dress their sons and daughters in elaborate costumes, and send them to the other side of the world to witness and, at times, commit horrifying acts of violence on an industrial scale. When a soldier comes home, his mother has no idea what he’s done.
My first hope for this book is that it might shine some light into the dark corners of our recent history, and perhaps even facilitate the reintroduction of families to sons and daughters who, when thanked for their service, say, “You’re welcome,” and leave it at that.
But more important, I hope this story brings greater attention to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Whatever danger, discomfort, or dread was experienced by even the most battle-hardened Marine can not compare to what the average Iraqi family endured on a daily basis.
Again, this is a work of fiction, and should not be mistaken for memoir in disguise. But it’s also a true story, in every way that matters.