Marine Tells His Story Of Trauma and Success

Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:41pm

Several new books have told the story of decorated soldiers who have fought in Iraq and returned to their hometowns, only to be lost because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jeremiah Workman’s story is not one of them. Workman, a highly confident Iraq War veteran, set out to write a colorful and vivid memoir detailing his combat experiences and arguing that PTSD is manageable and treatable.

In “Shadow of the Sword: A Marine’s Journey of War, Heroism, and Redemption,— Workman, with writer John Bruning, tackles the subject of PTSD as a veteran trying to move forward and make sense of his life after facing extreme combat.

Workman was credited with eliminating more than 20 enemy fighters during a high-profile battle in Fallujah, and for his actions he received the Navy Cross as well as the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.

He spent a month in 2008 traveling around the country as a featured speaker with the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour. Today he assists injured veterans in the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment.

He writes: “In the darkness, dreams come and trauma endured boils within us once again. Blessed daylight is our lifeline, and at times no amount of drugs doctors and scientists can create or prescribe can fight these demons for us.—

In a brief book (253 pages) on a vast subject, Workman’s chronological structure makes sense because unusual moments stand out, such as the lead-up to the fight in Fallujah.

Workman’s story begins on Christmas Eve 2004 when he was a Marine staff sergeant. His platoon faced 40 enemy combatants in a neighborhood in northern Fallujah. Five Marines, who climbed to the second floor of a house to assess the situation, were trapped and outnumbered, and Workman led three desperate assaults to rescue his fellow Marines. But three soldiers were ultimately killed.

As Workman remembers it, he was dragged out of the house before it was blown up. He writes that when he received the Navy Cross years later, he at first did not feel worthy of his awards.

This powerful memoir told through Workman’s firsthand experiences moves between the past and present as he struggles to make sense of how his combat experiences affect his mind and family life. Ultimately, with the help of a small support network and the birth of his son, he begins to accept the attention and accolades he receives.

Workman’s tale is a riveting one, and he tells it at a cracking pace. This is not a particularly objective memoir. Workman is plainly enthralled by his subject, and it is not hard to see why. He explains: “Time does not heal all wounds. In fact, with PTSD, time can make it worse. With Gulf War veterans, the number of reported PTSD cases doubled between the end of the war and two years after it.— Workman says his mission now is to educate fellow veterans that PTSD is common and even treatable.

The past few years have offered remarkable accounts chronicling key events of the Iraq War. Those interested in a more balanced analysis about the major combat missions in Iraq will need to look elsewhere. But, for the gripping story of an extraordinary veteran of this country’s most recent war, this is a good place to read about a complex military mission affecting thousands of Americans.