Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. His memoir, It's So Easy (Simon & Schuster) is out now.
This column today is dedicated in


War's Storytellers, and Why I Can't Turn Away

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. His memoir, It's So Easy (Simon & Schuster) is out now.
This column today is dedicated in memory of Lynn D. "Buck" Compton. I first read about Buck and the World War II exploits of his Easy Company in Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers.

Buck Compton died this week at the age of 90...at his home in Burlington, Washington.

Growing up in the Vietnam era was to grow up with the first ever "TV war." Every night at 6 p.m., we all would gather around the TV to see what Walter Cronkite had for us. What happened today over there?

Having two brothers in Vietnam also heightened my awareness. I remember asking my mom why my brother Mark had to go to war, and the answer she gave me then still holds true until this day. She told me that "two men who are leaders can't seem to agree on something; so they then go gather all of their young men to settle their differences in a big field...with guns and bombs."

All of these early inputs in my life have made me a somewhat ardent student of war, both historically and in the current.

I just finished Sebastian Junger's latest book, War, a written account of his time spent at a forward fire-base (Restrepo) in Afghanistan. If you have yet to see the documentary Restrepo, made by Junger and photo journalist Tim Hetherington, it is a must (if you don't mind blood, truth, and the conflicting feelings of futility and pride). Where the documentary simply lets the film tell the story, Junger's book fills in the gaps. The gaps that time away from the front, and loss of friends there, can lend a hand in coloring.

Junger has become a master storyteller, both in researched topics (Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont), and in his first-hand accounts of war.

War is no less masterful. It fills in the reader from the get-go about what it's like to be on the front line as a 19-year-old with no human affection except from your fellow soldiers. Junger surmises that a gun, danger, and violence can -- and does -- supplant sex in this arena, and when there is a lull in the fighting, aggression toward each other will take its place.

The line between journalist and combatant has fully been blurred with the advent of IEDs (roadside bombs). Whereas a journalist can be snarky and full of politics in the rear somewhere, the front-line journo like Junger seems to have a much more human and non-political directive. The motto seems to be: "Survive Today and Write the Truth Without Doing Harm to Those Who Protect You That Day."

Junger did a very honorable job here. Neither pro- nor antiwar; just a day-to-day account of some young men in extreme danger.

Infidel, by Tim Hetherington, is the still-photo companion to War, made so much more poignant as it was released just as Hetherington himself was killed by a mortar in Libya while covering the conflict there.

The subject of war may be too old, boring, violent, or repetitive for some. But with a closer look, the human story inside of the bigger arena has always had me hooked.

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