By Don Bentley
Can you believe this?
Some version of this innocuous sounding statement flooded my texts, email inboxes, and voicemail during the summer of 2021. The senders were, for the most part, Afghanistan veterans like me and were trying to make sense of the slow motion tragedy unfolding in the nation that had soaked up prodigious amounts of American blood and treasure for the last twenty years.
It is hard to fathom an effort spanning so much time while devouring so many precious resources all coming to nil, but that was exactly what was happening. My fellow servicemen and women found an assortment of ways to cope with tsunamis of rage, despair, and sadness that came from witnessing their life’s work unravel. I have no doubt that numerous personal records were achieved during those tumultuous summer months. Records for weights lifted, distances run, and yes, alcohol consumed.
Afghanistan became symbolic for the entire War on Terror fought across Iraq, Syria, and other hard to find corners of the globe. The demise of our efforts in Afghanistan brought into question the sacrifices made in these other combat theatres.
Had any of it been worth the cost?
If not, what did that say about those who would never again come home?
My veteran friends each wrestled with these heart wrenching questions.
I’m a writer, so I wrote.
Forgotten War, the 4th novel in my Matt Drake series, is the result.
Forgotten War is a work of fiction, but many aspects of the book are based on actual events. The conversations I had with fellow veterans during the summer of 2021 are woven through the narrative and form the book’s emotional backbone. At times, Forgotten War was very difficult to write, but my friend and fellow scribe, Nick Petrie, once told me that in a good book, the author is trying to answer a question for themselves in the novel’s pages. I can’t speak as to whether Forgotten War is a “good book,” but I can say that I tried to find the answer to the questions that haunted me that summer while writing its pages.
Forgotten War is meant to entertain, but I’m hoping that the story does more than that. Less than one quarter of one percent of the American public served in Afghanistan, which means many of our fellow citizens probably don’t know a veteran of the Forever War. My most fervent wish is that by seeing Afghanistan through the eyes of my protagonist, Matt Drake, readers might gain a better understanding of the men and women who served there.
Can you believe this?
I still can’t, but Forgotten War helped me begin to make sense of what happened.
Maybe it can do the same for you.
Readers, are you or do you know someone in the military? How do you/they feel about it?