Our Veteran Story Recommendations for Read Across America Week 2023
At the Bob Woodruff Foundation, it’s no secret that we love great stories about veterans and active-duty service members. So, for Read Across America Week 2023, we’re recommending a few stand-outs written by and for veterans and the military community.
I’m Still Standing
By Shoshana Johnson (2011)
In the infancy of Operation Iraqi Freedom, news of an insurgent ambush on a U.S. Army convoy near Baghdad shocked the world. Five Army soldiers were taken prisoner following the attack, and news outlets gave dramatic coverage on the capture and subsequent release of Jessica Lynch – but Shoshana Johnson remained captive for several more weeks. In I’m Still Standing, Johnson gives a personal account of her harrowing, traumatic experience as the first Black female POW in U.S. history.
The Things They Carried
By Tim O’Brien (1990)
Seen by many as a modern masterpiece in war writing and described by The New York Times as “a marvel in storytelling,” The Things They Carried offers an informal and poignant portrayal of the Vietnam War. Tim O’Brien, who was drafted into the Army immediately after graduating college, paints vivid pictures of the dangers he and his squad were exposed to, and illustrates the unique ways each of them coped. Part autobiography and part novel, The Things They Carried gives readers a glimpse into O’ Brien’s time fighting in a war he did not agree with, and how those experiences shaped him in the years following his service.
No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point to The West Wing
By General Martin Dempsey (2020)
Our friend and BWF board member General Martin Dempsey presents his own ruminations on leadership and service in No Time For Spectators. Examining the vast experience gained from his four-decade military career, Dempsey offers readers some of the lessons in problem-solving he learned in his various leadership roles. Dempsey tells us that sometimes it’s okay to “sweat the small stuff,” and hypothesizes that professional relationships between leaders and followers are mutually beneficial when centered around shared expectations.
I Am a Veteran
Poem by Andrea Brett (2002)
I Am a Veteran is a personal and deeply appreciative poem written to honor our nations veterans. Andrea Brett wrote the poem over twenty years ago, and has since performed it for veterans, active-duty service members, and military families across the country. Brett takes the time to visit with veterans and hear their stories of service – and this inspired her to adapt the poem into a coffee-table style book, complete with original artwork and thoughtful design.
Plenty of Time When We Get Home
By Kayla Williams (2014)
Specialist Kayla Williams and Sergeant Brian McGough began their professional relationship in 2003 after meeting during a tour in Iraq. McGough was later wounded by a roadside bomb and suffered a traumatic brain injury. After Williams’ tour concluded, she found McGough during his recovery and the two elevated their professional relationship to a romantic one. Plenty of Time When We Get Home illustrates the couple’s deep struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their service, their strenuous transition from military to civilian life, and how they persevered despite overwhelming odds.
Soldier Stories (One-Shot)
By Various Authors and Artists (2022)
A graphic novel depicting four different war tales, Soldier Stories offers a visceral and highly stylized perspective on real events written by the veterans who experienced them. Each story transcends the traditional narrative, blending personal storytelling with elements of science-fiction and horror – and each is uniquely illustrated to express what each author encountered.
Shade It Black
By Jessica Goodell (2011)
Jessica Goodell joined the Marine Corps right after high school, and by 2004 she found herself working to recover the remains of soldiers killed in action. Shade It Black gives an honest and insightful look into being tasked with examining and processing remains of fallen warriors. Goodell recounts grim yet fascinating details about her experience, ranging from the unique struggle of female soldiers coping with PTSD to how she was sometimes instructed to “shade it black” when creating diagrams during an autopsy report (not in reference to the famous Rolling Stones song).
Fives and Twenty-Fives
By Michael Pitre (2014)
The life of a soldier is often characterized by units of measurement, and this is certainly the case for the platoon depicted in Fives and Twenty-Fives. Michael Pitre’s novel eloquently illustrates the measurements of war, both tangible and hidden, for a group of Marines whose mission was to secure safe transit routes for both Iraqi citizens and military personnel. The story gives unique perspectives on military conflict, from the Lieutenant who hides behind his rank to the American culture-obsessed Iraqi interpreter who struggles with his own identity.
In An Instant
By Lee and Bob Woodruff (2008)
And finally, the authors of this autobiography need no introduction. The events that inspired the Woodruffs to establish this foundation have since become legend. In An Instant is a memoir from the perspectives of both Lee and Bob Woodruff, and chronicles how their lives were forever changed in the blink of an eye, how their deep bond and positive, humorous spirit helped them persevere through Bob’s miraculous TBI recovery, and how coping with deeply traumatic events can further strengthen the bond of a tight-knit family.