The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War

The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War

by Kevin Sites


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What is it like to kill?  What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these men, many of whom Sites first met while in Afghanistan and Iraq, the truth means something different. One struggles to recover from a head injury he believes has stolen his ability to love; another attempts to make amends for the killing of an innocent man; yet another finds respect for the enemy fighter who tried to kill him. Sites also shares the unsettling narrative of his own failures during war—including his complicity in a murder—and the redemptive powers of storytelling that saved him from a self-destructive downward spiral.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061990526
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/29/2013
Pages: 295
Sales rank: 266,901
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kevin Sites has spent more than a decade covering wars and conflicts for ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, and Vice magazine. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. He is also an associate professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Killer in Me xvii

Prologue: Me and My PTSD 1

Part I The Killing Business: What's It Like to Kill in War?

Chapter 1 Killing Up Close 25

Corporal William Wold, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2004)

Chapter 2 Pulling the Trigger 59

Staff Sergeant Mikeal Auton, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 4th Infantry

The War in Iraq (2004 and 2006)

Part II The Wounds of War: What's It Like to Be Shot, Bombed or Burned in Combat?

Chapter 3 Survivor's Guilt 77

Lance Corporal James Sperry, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2004)

Chapter 4 Someone's Not Listening 125

Gunnery Sergeant Leonard Shelton, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines

The Gulf War (1991)

Intermission: The Greatest Veneration: My Father's War 141

Part III Things That Stain the Soul: What Can Never Be Forgotten?

Chapter 5 Dogs of War 153

Specialist Joe Caley, U.S. Army

1st Cavalry, 25th Infantry

The War in Vietnam (1968-70)

Chapter 6 Hung on a Cross 165

First Lieutenant Thomas Saal, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines

The War in Vietnam (1967-68)

Part IV Deadly Honest Mistakes: What's It Like to Kill Your Own Men or Civilians?

Chapter 7 Unfriendly Fire 185

Specialist Michael "Casey" Ayala, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 327th Infantry

The War in Iraq (2006)

Chapter 8 Making It Right 205

Captain Zachary Iscol, U.S.M.C.

3rd Battalion, 1st Marines

The War in Iraq (2003-05)

Part V Moral Ambiguities: How Do You Know What's Right?

Chapter 9 Morris versus Mo 223

Colonel Morris Goins, U.S. Army

1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry

The War in Iraq (2006-08)

Chapter 10 The Quiet Soldier 233

Major Lior Tailer, Israel Defense Forces

609th Reserve Infantry Unit

The Wars in Lebanon (1989-90 and 2006)

Chapter 11 Into the Deep 255

Corporal Sebastiaan Schoonhoven, Royal Netherlands Army

11th Air Mobile Brigade

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2004 and 2006)

Epilogue: Deus Ex Machina 277

Acknowledgments 291

What People are Saying About This

Edward Tick

A vivid set of portrats of modern combatants written in prose taht moves with speed and heat.”

Sean Parnell

“Brilliant! An unprecedented view into the heart, mind and soul of American Warriors from every generation. A must read for every American.”

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The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
claywest14 More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very interesting to read because I am very interested in what is happing over seas in war. The media really hides what happens. After reading this book I realized that these soldiers have not had it easy over there and they come back here and people tend to think that once they come back they will be fine and nothing else to worry about them. But that is wrong PDST is an illness that soldiers get back from a war. A journalist is writing this book and he goes and interviews his subject during the war and tries to find them also for the complete story.He talks a lot about killing a man with being a journalist in the war and what a harsh toll is can be on a man. This is what I liked about the book because i thought it was very interesting how some men that he took there stories they have no regrets at all for taking some ones life even if it wasn’t a sure threat. But other men come back and become alcoholics from this regret or feeling of sorrow.Taking ones life was a big theme of this book. He talked to one man that said he remembered his first kill it was on a boy that was going to throw a grenade at his platoon but he shot him down and after that he just went all out in killing. He went to a village and he killed some suspected but he also killed at least 6 innocent people in this doing. I could not deal with that pain inside of me and I feel like the media hides all the truth of what that really does to some one in there later years. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a true eye opener. I didnt even buy the whole book yet because it $10 but the free sample alone is a life changer. As a spouse to a soldier who battles ptsd on a daily basis, this book really made me think and helped me understand better. It also made me cry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. My father served in Iraq in the 90s and after 9/11 and my brother served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While reading this book I spent a great deal of time thinking about them, wondering what their experiences had been. My father was in a vehicle struck by an IED and my brother had been witness to a suicide bombing attack. I know they both came home with PTSD but now I also wonder did they have to shoot someone, did they kill someone. I wonder what are the things they cannot say. Perhaps one day I will be brave enough to truly ask those questions. All in all I think this is an excellent book which provides much to think about. At times I found myself on the verge of tears as I read these soldiers stories and considered the burdens they carry still. This book also made me question seriously whether it is ethical to send 18 year olds to war. How can we expect them to reconcile the things they've done and experienced in war when their brains are not even fully developed yet? And how is it that they are released into civilian life so quickly after a tour and there is almost no support for the majority. It's no wonder so many come home with PTSD. This book was definitely worth reading. You will find yourself thinking about these men and their stories long after finishing this book.
CasualTrekkie More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has strong feelings about war - or no feelings about war. In fact, I just recommend this book for civilians to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read book. An amazing reporting about what really happens to soldiers at war and how they are neglected by the society they protect. A touching book that you can´t miss. 
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Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
I expected to have a lot of trouble getting into this book. That proved to be correct – but not for the reason I was anticipating. I thought I would find descriptions of war, potentially graphic scenes of battle, and confessions to acts that conscionable men would never do in civilized society. Instead, the first part of the book was made up of personal soul-searching by the author. The author talked about things that he as a journalist witnessed – and perhaps could have directly influenced if he had been of a mind to do so. Not that a little soul-searching is a bad thing – just not what I had been led to anticipate. The author's experiences did help to explain why other soldiers were willing to confide in him, even when said “confidence” was to be shared with the world at large. And the tales told by those soldiers did, in fact, contain some horrible actions, both witnessed and performed, by the soldiers whose tales are told within these pages. I was impressed that the author realized that such tales are not limited to American soldiers, and included some tales of individuals who fought for other countries, as well. All in all, I finished the book much more impressed than I thought I would after the first 10% or so. However, the feeling that this book breached private thoughts that I shouldn't have ever been exposed to in the hopes that the author could find peace with the choices he made during his own life never escaped me. I hope that his belief that sharing these stories helped the men who offered them up. RATING: 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars for those sites that cannot handle fractions of a star. DISCLOSURE: I received this book free of charge from the publisher without obligation, although a fair and unbiased review would be appreciated. (I suspect, however, that they wish I hadn't waited 2 years to do it.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a waste of money unless you love history and wars do not buy is
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cuss not nice u now know