Making War at Fort Hood: Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community

Kenneth T MacLeish, Author
Kenneth T. MacLeish. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-691-15274-5
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Twenty-first-century servicemen and women are leading a new kind of soldier’s life—overwhelmingly married, they rotate routinely between the battlefield and a home in the suburbs. Multiple tours are the norm. Compartmentalizing verges from a coping mechanism to a survival tactic. But what kind of impact does this normalization of abnormality have on soldiers, their families, and military base communities? Vanderbilt’s MacLeish offers the beginnings of an explanation in his case study of Fort Hood, Tex., where “[w]hat is ‘normal’ is not necessarily tolerable,” and couples find it “difficult to say who [has] it worse,” soldier or spouse. The author describes the base as a complex network of “thresholds and distinctions,” whose structure holds true on the battlefield, where “the Army owns the [body]... but the soldier is forced to own its pains.” MacLeish writes eloquently of love as a panacea for soldiers and their families, noting that it is an effective “gesture of sovereignty” in a system of “disciplinary constraint.” But MacLeish advocates for a grander “collective social responsibility for violence” done in society’s name. Though his conclusions have been reached before, this portrait of Army life on American turf is a welcome change of pace from the recent surge of battle-focused narratives. 6 halftones. (Mar.)
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