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Jun 8, 2010
Outside Magazine
Junger in the Korengal Valley

Junger in the Korengal Valley    Photo: Photograph by Tim Hetherington

War, by Sebastian Junger

War, by Sebastian Junger

Bloody War!
"War is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them." These words explain, in part, why Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan's six-mile-long Korengal Valley, embedded with the U.S. Army, to write War (Twelve Books, $27, May). The title suggests the ambition of the work; Junger set out to write the definitive account of the modern soldier's experience, and the men he embeds with deliver the goods. The Second Platoon of Battle Company is a collection of chain-smokers half Junger's age who often fight the Taliban sporting nothing but shorts, flip-flops, and INFIDEL tattoos. Their home is Restrepo, a mountaintop base with no electricity but enough ammo to "keep every weapon rocking...until the barrels have melted...and every tree in the valley has been chopped down with lead." Restrepo, named after a medic killed in battle, is also the title of a forthcoming film co-directed by Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington. The two-legged, Sebastian-does-Afghanistan project reminds us that Junger has become a brand. But his reporting reminds us that he's earned his star: Junger grasps the soldier's fear by living with it, once narrowly escaping death by IED. In April, the Army announced its departure from Korengal, and War will stand as a lasting account of the failed American experiment in this cruel little valley."It certainly isn't beautiful up there," Junger writes of Restrepo, "but the fact that it might be the last place you'll ever see does give it a kind of glow."

Filed To: Culture, Afghanistan