Signature Wound

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“Trust me, the first thing you do is check your [junk.]”

Not all Purple Hearts are created equal.

This is how a rehabbing Army soldier describes the immediate post-IED blast scene in Bob Drury’s new piece “Signature Wound,” available through Amazon’s Kindle Singles. Drury, a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health, explores the effects of anti-personnel IEDs on the genitalia of dismounted Marines and soldiers, something that has occurred at least 200 times since 2009.

It’s not a comfortable read, nor is it an easy one. Myself, I had to take a couple reading breaks, something that had nothing to do with the (very reasonable) length of the piece. But it’s an important one. The gruesome nature of their war wounds is told frankly and honestly, nonfiction dirty realism swirling together with real life 21st century Jakes Barnes’.

The stark pragmatism of the young combat vets inspires, even in the midst of their realizing they’ll never have sex again with their spouse, or have children without incredible medical advancements. To a man, they all say that “It could’ve been worse,” even when it’s clear that it probably couldn’t have been. This rugged survivability is both a testament to the individual service members and to the military that cultivates such a spirit. We should all be so brave and resolute in our lives.

Drury’s striking piece serves as yet another reminder that the consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to continue for many, many years, even after/if we fully withdraw from both countries. If we’re the country we aspire to be, we’ll deal with these consequences quickly, efficiently and smartly.