10 reviews on those who served their country.

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The Civilian lives of U.S. veterans: issues and identities, ed. by Louis Hicks, Eugenia L. Weiss, and Jose E. Coll. Praeger, 2016 (c2017). 2v index ISBN 9781440842788, $164.00; ISBN 9781440842795 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2017

Although veterans often feature in highly dramatic news stories about active shooter events, PTSD, homelessness, or VA healthcare inadequacies, surprisingly few texts of academic caliber focus on current issues surrounding veterans. A noticeable exception is this two-volume set edited by Hicks (St. Mary’s College of Maryland), Weiss (Univ. of Southern California), and Coll (Texas State Univ.), which offers 30 articles on an array of social topics ranging from higher education, employment, families, and healthcare to more timely issues of media portrayal, suicide, immigrants, LGBT and women veterans, and the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. Previous data from surveys, government or research statistics, literature reviews, and personal interviews is often used to present secondary data analysis and content analysis that offer new insights into how veterans navigate the transition from military to veteran status and acclimate (or fail to acclimate) to civilian life. Patricia Stern’s Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life: Overview of Issues, Challenges, and Transition Assistance (2015), a significantly slimmer work, is the only comparison text. A fantastic read! For institutions with sociology, social work, political science, or military history programs, or any public library serving substantial military populations. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —J. M. Enomoto, independent scholar

Estes, Steve. Ask & tell: gay and lesbian veterans speak out. North Carolina, 2007. 280p ISBN 9780807831151, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2008

Estes (history, Sonoma State Univ.) argues that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy silences the experiences of gay people in the military. His book, which gives a voice to gay and lesbian US military veterans, is much broader than this policy, as it includes gay and lesbian veterans from WW II through the current war in Iraq. As such, the book serves as an excellent history of both gay and lesbian life and the gay rights movement. One of the book’s strengths is also a weakness. As veterans’ stories make up most of the book, readers are left to draw connections between the narratives. Additional discussion of the numerous themes that thread throughout the book (such as military masculinity and the double standards for military women) would have shed more light on the process of silencing gays’ and lesbians’ military service. Despite this lack of thematic analysis, these narratives tell volumes about the experiences of gay servicemen and women, and powerfully illustrate how patriotism and commitment to service cut across gender and sexuality. The narratives will make important contributions to classroom discussions in sexuality, sociology, gender studies, and military history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —W. M. Christensen, University of Wisconsin

Gordon, Suzanne. Wounds of war: how the VA delivers health, healing, and hope to the nation’s veterans. Cornell, 2018. 445p index ISBN 9781501730825, $29.95; ISBN 9781501730848 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2019

The Veterans Health Administration (VA) stands as America’s sole foray into socialized healthcare. Gordon, a journalist, sets out to determine if the arguments of conservative politicians and for-profit health companies are correct that the healthcare of our nation’s veterans would be better served in the private sector. Her thoroughly researched conclusion: despite its negative media image, the VA surprisingly outshines the private sector in critical ways, the foremost being that as a public entity it is better equipped to place veterans’ healthcare first without incentive, unlike privatized health agencies whose primary purpose is to turn a profit. Combining statistics and other data with personal anecdotes of veterans and employees, Gordon describes how the VA seamlessly integrates healthcare with mental health and social services. This approach has substantially reduced the number of homeless veterans, and led to innovative medical research, such as nicotine patches. This book offers a unique approach to an important topic and is an essential addition for institutions with programs in medicine and other health-affiliated fields (health administration, social work, etc.), public policy and administration, political science, or for any public library serving veteran and/or military populations. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —J. M. Enomoto, independent scholar

Hagopian, Patrick. The Vietnam War in American memory: veterans, memorials, and the politics of healing. Massachusetts, 2009. 553p ISBN 9781558496934, $49.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2009

The central focus of this book is the story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM, aka “The Wall”) in Washington, DC, but the author branches out from there to examine many large, controversial questions concerning the place and influence of the Vietnam War in US culture and foreign policy to the present day. This is by far the most complete examination of the complex, hotly contested story of the VVM extant. Hagopian (American studies, Lancaster Univ., UK) offers a particularly compelling critique of the “apolitical” healing and reconciliation themes associated with the memorial, arguing cogently that this result was achieved at the cost of avoiding, forgetting, or covering up many of the most important aspects of the war, including the virtually complete exclusion of the people and culture of Vietnam from US memorials. Overall, this is among the most important books on the Vietnam War published in the past decade. About the only downside is the book’s length and that much of the book, the early chapters especially, is slow and difficult reading. Nonetheless, for anyone seriously interested in the Vietnam War era and recent US history and willing to put in some time and effort, this should be a challenging, rewarding work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —K. Blaser, Wayne State College

Jordan, Brian Matthew. Marching home: Union veterans and their unending Civil War. Liveright, 2015. 374p bibl index ISBN 9780871407818, $28.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2015

Jordan (Gettysburg College) provides an eye-opening analysis of how Union soldiers battled with their wounds, both physical and emotional, after the Civil War. This topic has received little historical attention given the veterans’ status as the conflict’s heroic victors and the respect bestowed upon them by their home population. Jordan elucidates on the wide spectrum of challenges that awaited these veterans as they reintegrated back into society. Many had problems with the pensions system; others dealt with wartime amputations or variations of posttraumatic psychological stress. Still others struggled with just securing the necessities of life and found a primary source of assistance with fellow veterans with the Grand Army of the Republic, which served as a de facto welfare institution for former soldiers. The book’s well-constructed prose is undergirded by impeccable primary source research; the endnotes are nearly as long as the narrative itself. Although Jordan’s assessment of veterans does lack perspective on just how universal these issues were with the entire body of Union veterans, this monograph is most certainly a trailblazing work on the topic and insightful to similar issues in today’s civil-military relations. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —B. A. Wineman, Marine Corps University

Kaplan, Mary. The Tuskegee Veterans Hospital and its black physicians: the early years. McFarland, 2016. 151p bibl index afp ISBN 9781476662985 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9781476625485 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2017

In seven chapters, Kaplan’s book, “an account of the United States Veterans Administration’s efforts to construct and develop a medical facility designed to provide treatment to black veterans,” goes far beyond a history of the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital and its black physicians. Kaplan weaves a narrative of the struggle of blacks, racism in the military, institutional racism, and the civil rights movement. She summarizes treatment of African Americans in the US military from colonial militias to the Korean conflict and describes veterans and staff fighting barriers to provide care for black veterans at the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital. Though the author covers widespread resistance, the massive challenges of opening the hospital and recruiting and hiring black physicians, and the challenges of black physicians’ practicing in the Jim Crow South, the gripping story of the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital is actually of the bravery of many to overcome hatred and racism that led to the march of freedom and equal rights for African American veterans. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —R. I. Hooper, Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Leitz, Lisa. Fighting for peace: veterans and military families in the anti-Iraq War movement. Minnesota, 2014. 306p (Social movements, protest, and contention, 40) ISBN 9780816680450, $69.00; ISBN 9780816680467 pbk, $22.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE October 2014

Using ethnographic methods of participant observation of veterans and military family members active in the military peace movement against the Iraq War, Leitz (Hendrix College), sociologist and military spouse, investigates how identity development, personal experience, emotion, and culture are interconnected with social movements. Thoroughly researched and data rich, this study builds on the classic literature of collective identity construction and social movement studies through examining emotional transformations in the participants, as well as the impact on collective identity specifically within insider-outsider identities. Participants were both inside and outside the traditional military and peace movement. Leitz analyzes the facets of this collective identity, the transformation of participants becoming military peace activists, and how that impacted the movement and public opinion. This reviewer is impressed by the author’s easy-to-read and engaging narrative explaining complex collective identity and emotions work clearly. Photos of the movement participants and their experiences only enhance the ethnography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries. —E. E. Gratz, University of La Verne

Li, Xiaobing. Voices from the Vietnam War: stories from American, Asian, and Russian veterans. University Press of Kentucky, 2010. 279p ISBN 9780813125923, $35.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2010

Every Vietnam veteran, regardless of nationality, was traumatized by the war. Historian Li (Univ. of Central Oklahoma) provides fresh insights into the conflict with this book. Using the same formula he successfully employed (with Richard Peters) in their earlier volume on Korea (Voices from the Korean WarCH, Oct’04, 42-1093), Li creates an international history of the Vietnam War based not on archival material but on oral histories. For years, oral histories of Vietnam have mainly focused on combat narratives. Li takes a fresh approach by interviewing medics, doctors, and antiaircraft gunners, as well as a KGB officer who sought intelligence on the Red Chinese. From the vignettes, readers become aware of the advisers and support personnel supplied by China and the Soviet Union, which are often overlooked in traditional accounts of Vietnam. The recent trend in publishing about Vietnam has focused on fiction, as seen in the popularity of the 2010 novels Matterhorn (Karl Marlantes) and Girl by the Road (David Rabe). Fortunately for scholars, Voices from the Vietnam War is a significant addition to the vast array of scholarship already in print about the tragedy in Southeast Asia. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —C. C. Lovett, Emporia State University

Shaffer, Donald R. After the glory: the struggles of black Civil War veterans. University Press of Kansas, 2004. 281p ISBN 0700613285, $34.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2005

Although there have been many recent works on Civil War veterans, particularly Union veterans, this is the first comprehensive study of African American Union veterans and their struggle for “dignified manhood.” Shaffer (Univ. of Northern Colorado) uses the 1890 special census, pension records, and memoirs to examine the postwar lives of these veterans. He provides an overall look at African American veterans (particularly with a nice set of statistical tables in the appendix) as well as at some individuals. The book covers their families, work, and social lives. Shaffer also discusses their political activities, including the struggle for suffrage and real political power. Readers familiar with the literature on Civil War pensions (notably, Theda Skocpol’s Protecting Soldiers and MothersCH, Jul’93, 30-6457) will find Shaffer’s descriptions of the disparity in those pensions enlightening. The author also does an excellent job of describing the role of black veterans in the Grand Army of the Republic and the conflicts that arose between black and white veterans as the decades passed. This work is easy to read and well argued. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —K. L. Gorman, Minnesota State University—Mankato

Veterans’ policies, veterans’ politics: new perspectives on veterans in the modern United States, ed. by Stephen R. Ortiz. University Press of Florida, 2012. 318p ISBN 9780813042077, $69.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2013

For its entire history, the US has paid attention to what it owes its citizen soldiers. By the end of the 19th century, 40 percent of the federal budget went to veterans’ pensions. Yet the impact of veterans on public policy remains an area only partly explored. Ortiz’s valuable collection of essays provides a much needed update to Theda Skocpol’s 1992 Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (CH, Jul’93, 30-6457). The authors of these 12 insightful essays, which deal thematically and chronologically with health care, disability, race, labor, and, of course, the various GI bills, explore the many ways that veterans and veterans groups have influenced the course of public policy during the past century. In 2011, the government paid more than $39 billion in disability claims to veterans going back to WW II. The country’s wars may end, but its obligations to those who served can continue for decades to come. An important contribution toward understanding the role of the veteran in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —E. A. Goedeken, Iowa State University