The Invisible Front
The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War by Yochi Dreazen is an exhaustive look at the huge crisis threatening our troops: PTSD and suicide. Dreazen's book focuses on the Graham family: Major General Mark and his wife Carol, and their children; Jeff, Kevin, and Melanie. The Grahams face the loss of both of their sons while in the Army: Jeff to a roadside bomb in Iraq, and Kevin to suicide. Jeff was lauded as a hero, while Kevin's death was met with silence. Mark and Carol are now on a mission to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide within the military. The book descriptions reads:
"The unforgettable story of a military family that lost two sons—one to suicide and one in combat—and channeled their grief into fighting the armed forces’ suicide epidemic.
Major General Mark Graham was a decorated two-star officer whose integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue military careers of their own. His wife Carol was a teacher who held the family together while Mark's career took them to bases around the world. When Kevin and Jeff die within nine months of each other—Kevin commits suicide and Jeff is killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq—Mark and Carol are astonished by the drastically different responses their sons’ deaths receive from the Army. While Jeff is lauded as a hero, Kevin’s death is met with silence, evidence of the terrible stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness in the military. Convinced that their sons died fighting different battles, Mark and Carol commit themselves to transforming the institution that is the cornerstone of their lives.
The Invisible Front is the story of how one family tries to set aside their grief and find purpose in almost unimaginable loss. The Grahams work to change how the Army treats those with PTSD and to erase the stigma that prevents suicidal troops from getting the help they need before making the darkest of choices. Their fight offers a window into the military’s institutional shortcomings and its resistance to change – failures that have allowed more than 2,000 troops to take their own lives since 2001. Yochi Dreazen, an award-winning journalist who has covered the military since 2003, has been granted remarkable access to the Graham family and tells their story in the full context of two of America’s longest wars. Dreazen places Mark and Carol’s personal journey, which begins when they fall in love in college and continues through the end of Mark's thirty-four year career in the Army, against the backdrop of the military’s ongoing suicide spike, which shows no signs of slowing. With great sympathy and profound insight, The Invisible Front details America's problematic treatment of the troops who return from war far different than when they'd left and uses the Graham family’s work as a new way of understanding the human cost of war and its lingering effects off the battlefield."
This might sound like a dry book to read, but it's absolutely not. I was hooked by the first page and just couldn't put it down. The Graham's story is compelling, and Dreazen makes it so readable and relateable. He has a gift for weaving the story in such a way that you won't want to stop reading. By the end, you'll feel like you know the Grahams. He skillfully portrays every part of the story - he doesn't shy away from hard truths, such as the alcoholism and mental illness in the family. Yet he also shows all the good parts of every member of the family as well. It's such a realistic portrayal of an all-American family hit by a tragic loss. This book will make you want to get involved in the struggle of the members of the military with PTSD and mental illness. While tragic, the story is ultimately hopeful as well - Mark and Carol are touching many lives with their efforts to combat suicide and mental illness in the military. This is an absolute must-read for every American. As a side note, the cover is absolutely beautiful in its stunning simplicity. In fact, it's what drew me to first picking up this book. Perfect cover and wonderful book. Highly recommended.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.