JAKE Wood’s compelling account is a timely reminder of the traumas faced by service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and should be read by anyone contemplating a career in the armed forces.
Among You: The Extraordinary True Story Of A Soldier Broken By War
By Jake Wood
Mainstream Publishing, 448pp, £14.99
Wood had a well-paid job as a business analyst in a London bank. He was also a member of the Territorial Army and volunteered to serve in Iraq. At the beginning of this account of his time as a frontline soldier he does not lay claim to any special treatment. He acknowledges that he had not been conscripted but made a personal choice to risk his life. He was thrilled by the prospect of war.
That all changed, particularly after the horrors he experienced in Afghanistan. By the end of his service, he suffered from severe post traumatic syndrome. No longer remembering that he had made a personal and unforced choice, he began to look for acknowledgment that he and his friends had risked their lives and sacrificed their private happiness.
He is bitter that there was no welcome home – “only the feeling of being ignored”. He felt “completely and utterly” alone. This was made worse by a visit to the United States where he saw how soldiers were thanked, feted and given special treatment.
That descent to deep depression is not the whole story. It is compounded by his feelings of self-worthlessness as a child which caused him to stammer. Part of Wood’s determination to succeed as a soldier came from his boyhood fear of failure. He had a complex personality before he ever went to war.
Jake Wood tells his story with an expert eye for detail and in parts it is intensely gripping and emotional. He is open about the dark side of war. When his comrades are killed, he records the anguish of the survivors, particularly one 19-year-old who watched his friend die. “And what did he die for? I still don’t know why I’m really here.” That is the best summary of all.