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The Things They Cannot Say
Cover of The Things They Cannot Say
The Things They Cannot Say
Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War

What is it like to kill? What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these men, many of whom Sites first met while in Afghanistan and Iraq, the truth means something different. One struggles to recover from a head injury he believes has stolen his ability to love; another attempts to make amends for the killing of an innocent man; yet another finds respect for the enemy fighter who tried to kill him. Sites also shares the unsettling narrative of his own failures during war—including his complicity in a murder—and the redemptive powers of storytelling that saved him from a self-destructive downward spiral.

What is it like to kill? What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these men, many of whom Sites first met while in Afghanistan and Iraq, the truth means something different. One struggles to recover from a head injury he believes has stolen his ability to love; another attempts to make amends for the killing of an innocent man; yet another finds respect for the enemy fighter who tried to kill him. Sites also shares the unsettling narrative of his own failures during war—including his complicity in a murder—and the redemptive powers of storytelling that saved him from a self-destructive downward spiral.

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About the Author-
  • Kevin Sites has spent more than a decade covering wars and conflicts for ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, and Vice magazine. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. He is also an associate professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 8, 2012
    In this riveting and emotionally raw debut, award-winning journalist Sites profiles 11 soldiers (including members of non-American militaries) to explore what it feels like to kill, “be shot, bombed or burned in combat,” and how one goes on living after the fighting dies down. Sites opens candidly with his own experience, describing how a moment of journalistic indifference in 2004 resulted in the murder of a captured Iraqi insurgent, a tragedy the author dwells on intermittently throughout the book. Drawing from interviews and military records, Sites goes on to tell the stories of veterans of the wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and, in the case of his own father, WWII. Whether stationed in sultry jungles, urban streets, or rugged mountains, soldiers are asked to endure intense physical and mental traumas, and while common threads weave throughout these stories, each is unique: one describes the horror of witnessing the crucifixion of a deceased North Vietnamese Army officer; another tells of the guilt that accompanies friendly fire. But these gripping stories do not equal “an indictment against hope”; they are evidence of a profound desire to heal. Photos.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2012
    Veterans from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan--including Sites himself as a war correspondent (In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, 2007)--tell their tales of the struggle to survive on and after the battlefield, in the hopes that such storytelling may be a way "to release warriors from the bonds of their own silence." Lance Cpl. James Sperry writes, "I am only twenty-four and have lived a life I wish on no one." Such is the common thread of despair to be found among these warriors' tales. In combat, they did and saw things no one should endure. They killed--the enemy, civilians, their own troops as a result of friendly fire. They saw friends blown apart, and they were wounded. They grew rabid with anger and a desire to kill. Then they were expected to return to friends, family and community unchanged from these horrors. But this was not possible, as veteran after veteran experienced PTSD. Too often in silence, combat veterans suffered from an inability to reconnect, to love, to be simply normal. Sites includes himself among the lost, as he recounts how his "confused incompetent inaction" led to the murder of Iraqi insurgent Taleb Salem Nidal. Sites thus joined the ranks of those suffering from PTSD--covering guilt, shame and fear in a haze of alcohol and marijuana, numbed by taking "a chef's salad of [prescribed] drugs every day," losing wives and loved ones who could not understand their sullen withdrawal. However, in sensitive, honest prose, the author emphasizes that this is a book about hope. Most of the wounded warriors eventually found their way back, including Sites, and part of the healing process involves telling their stories. The author allows himself and the combat veterans he interviews the space to do so. An important book for warriors and the communities that send them to war.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • San Francisco Chronicle

    "Sites highlights the importance of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and sharing stories. Most importantly, he forces readers, those average civilians, to look at what war does to people and think about whether it's always worth it."

  • Sean Parnell, New York Times Bestselling Author of Outlaw Platoon

    "Brilliant! An unprecedented view into the heart, mind and soul of American Warriors from every generation. A must read for every American."

  • Edward Tick, Ph. D., codirector of Solider's heart and authof of War and Soul

    A vivid set of portrats of modern combatants written in prose taht moves with speed and heat."

  • Publishers Weekly

    "Riveting and emotionally raw...These gripping stories...are evidence of a profound desire to heal."

  • Kirkus Reviews

    "In sensitive, honest prose, the author emphasizes that this is a book about hope. An important book for warriors and the communities that send them to war."

  • Shelf Awareness (Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, KS

    A gritty look at postwar distress, including veterans' personal accounts, by a journalist with his own intimate perspective on the subject.

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The Things They Cannot Say
The Things They Cannot Say
Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War
Kevin Sites
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