When Tyndale House offered Two Wars by Nate Self as a free ebook recently, I very nearly did not bother to download it.  While vaguely grateful for the men and women of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, I assumed Two Wars would be full of fighting, army jargon and just not my cup of tea.  But it kept playing on my mind until in the end I went to Tyndale’s website and downloaded it.  I am so glad I did.  Far from being boring and ‘jargony’, it gives a fascinating insight into the life of a soldier – Nate Self is open and honest, writing in a very descriptive, easy-to-read style.  Having begun to read, I found I could not put the book down.

In the first half of the book, Nate Self shares his growing passion for the army, in particular the US Rangers – a highly specialised unit and tight-knit team:

In our unit, we don’t wear markings or nametags.  We don’t need them, anyway, in such a tight team.  Despite our coverings of body armor, weapons, and gear, we recognize each other by the way we hold our rifles, by the way we dive for cover, by the way we move in the shadows.

Nate Self describes the unit’s excitement in being deployed to Afghanistan, a short time after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers.  He shares openly about frustration with postponed missions, and his own struggle with wrong attitudes.  He hated Al-Quaeda and was eager to kill in this war on terror.  But his close friendship with the unit’s chaplain enabled him, before God, to get ‘a good grasp on where [his] attitude should be for the rest of [his] deployment’.  He was able to see himself more clearly, not ‘eager to kill in anger’ but as an ‘instrument of justice in the United States goverment’.

The unit was clear about why they were there:

Just in time for the mission, one of the Rangers received a package from his grandmother in Brooklyn that made us all feel like we were destined to make history.  He opened a large cardboard box to find fifty navy blue T-shirts, half of them displaying the New York Police Department logo and half displaying the Fire Department of New York emblem.  That’s why we’re here….  We decided right then that we’d wear the shirts under our uniforms on every mission.

Nate Self takes the reader in imagination in the helicopter sent out on a rescue mission; one that was doomed, although the soldiers had no idea of what they would face when they set out.  As I read, I leapt out of the crashed helicopter with the unit, crouched in the snow, and fought for my life and my colleagues on that freezing cold, inhospitable mountain.  I cried as I read of him seeing his colleagues die, his utter helplessness as he called again and again for back-up on the two-way radio, only to be told a rescue unit could not be sent until nightfall.  It is graphic, descriptive, real.  His faith shines through strongly, partly evidenced by his knee-jerk reaction of cyring out ‘Jesus Christ’ when under unrelenting gunfire.

Nate Self shows the sacrifice that soldiers make when they fight for freedom.  In the second half of the book, he shares the terrible psychological impact that war had on his life.  For me ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ abruptly ceased to be words sometimes heard on the news.  It became real as I read of the terrible toll it takes on minds and lives.  As Stu Weber writes in the Afterword:  ‘The ‘journey back’ to life and living, after staring death and dying in the face, is a long one’.

This book is an eye-opener but, in a strange way, an intensely satisfying read.  It gave me a fresh respect for the men and women of the Armed Forces and the real – ongoing – sacrifice they make.  I am so glad that I chose to download it.