Soft Spots A Marine's Memoir of Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Clint Van Winkle

St. Martin's Griffin

0312602960

9780312602963

Trade Paperback

224 Pages

$16.99

CAD19.50

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Marine Sergeant Clint Van Winkle flew to war on Valentine’s Day 2003. His battalion was among the first wave of troops that crossed into Iraq, and his first combat experience was the battle of Nasiriyah, followed by patrols throughout the country, house to house searches, and operations in the dangerous Baghdad slums.

But after two tours of duty, certain images would not leave his memory—a fragmented mental movie of shooting a little girl; of scavenging parts from a destroyed, blood-spattered tank; of obliterating several Iraqi men hidden behind an ancient wall; and of mistakenly stepping on a “soft spot,” the remains of a Marine killed in combat. After his return home, Van Winkle sought help at a Veterans Administration facility, and so began a maddening journey through an indifferent system that promises to care for veterans, but in fact abandons many of them.

Van Winkle's Soft Spots is a powerful, haunting, provocative memoir of a Marine in Iraq—and his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a system trying to hide the damage done. From riveting scenes of combat violence, to the gallows humor of soldiers fighting a war that seems to make no sense, to moments of tenderness in a civilian life ravaged by flashbacks, rage, and doubt, Soft Spots reveals the mind of a soldier like no other recent memoir of the war that has consumed America.

REVIEWS

Praise for Soft Spots

"Nothing gets held back in Soft Spots, Clint Van Winkle's account of his two years of duty as a Marine sergeant in Iraq. He describes the exhilaration of being in a place where he was authorized to kill and where freedom was, in a sense, absolute—precisely because he could die at any moment. We hear about attacks on Iraqis who may or may not have been civilians, and later of the ignorance he finds on a college campus at home . . . This ambiguity stems from the nature of the war he fought. The soldiers lived in an almost hermetically sealed society and in a state of near-constant fear and rage. And they had unmatched lethal firepower at their command. 'My war,' writes Van Winkle, 'was an impersonal war full of indiscriminate firing and long-distance death.' But the ambiguity is also stylistic, an expression of the author's hallucinatory state of mind in the months following combat. He moves without warning from the streets of Phoenix to the sands of Iraq and back again. He finds himself full of unreasoning anger; he fights with his wife. Having finally realized that he's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he struggles to get help. Van Winkle's unseen dead have followed him home."—Juliet Wittman, The Washington Post

"Memoir of a Marine's service in Iraq and his ongoing recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder. At times, when he writes unflinchingly about the inner conflicts that compelled him to tell his story, Van Winkle's prose crackles with Exleyesque intensity and black humor. He wanted to be one of those 'street fighters, thugs, drunks, and rednecks' who constitute typical Marines, he declares. When he deployed to Iraq in 2003 he was. He walked the talk, as full of bravado and guff as any of his buddies, whose lewd jokes and crude games made the day-to-day horrors of war more bearable. He couldn't seem to find his place back in civilian life without them . . . when [Van Winkle] focuses on his emotions, confronting his doubts about the war and his guilt for doubting it while Marines are still fighting and dying in it, he earns the hard-boiled edge of his prose. At its best, a powerful reminder of the human cost of the war."—Kirkus Reviews

"In this moving account of one soldier's experience in Iraq and his resulting post-traumatic stress disorder, Van Winkle seamlessly interweaves battle stories, flashbacks, panic attacks, and trips made in vain to obtain help at the Veterans Administration. Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed, Van Winkle was shuttled through an ineffectual system that often leaves vets helpless and frustrated. Iraq veterans and anyone who has experienced PTSD will find much to admire in this slim but accomplished memoir."—Elizabeth Brinkley, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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CLINT VAN WINKLE served for eight years in the United States Marine Corps, earning the rank of sergeant. While in Iraq he served as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle section leader, attached to Lima Company 3rd BN 1st Marines, and commanded eighteen other Marines. After two tours of duty, he returned to earn a BA in English from Arizona State University, then a MA in Creative Writing and Media from the University of Wales-Swansea, and began to publish pieces of this book in literary magazines. He lives with his wife in Chesapeake, Virginia.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Clint Van Winkle

  • Clint Van Winkle served for eight years in the United States Marine Corps, earning the rank of sergeant. While in Iraq he served as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle section leader, attached to Lima Company 3rd BN 1st Marines, and commanded eighteen other Marines. After two tours of duty, he returned to earn a BA in English from Arizona State University, then a MA in Creative Writing and Media from the University of Wales-Swansea, and began to publish pieces of this book in literary magazines. He lives with his wife in Chesapeake, Virginia.

  • Clint Van Winkle
    Clint Van Winkle
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