Soft Spots: A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
“Nothing gets held back in Soft Spots . . . lacerating honesty, the narrative is dreamlike and surreal.”
—The Washington Post
“[Van Winkle's] book describes his spiral from the inanity of war to the insanity of the world-weary . . . Happy trails? No. Trauma? Yes, this is how one veteran carries his war.”
—Marine Corps Times
“Van Winkle’s detailed account of how combat shattered his mind is as disturbing as his war imagery.”
—Washington City Paper
“The emotional impact of this memoir will reside with you long after the final page is turned.”
—North County Outlook (WA)
“[Van Winkle] gives voice to the thousands of forgotten soldiers returning home from Iraq, or those whose souls are still stuck there. He gives us his poor haunted head, only mapped out and numbered, and the effect will make you weep.”
—The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)
A powerful, haunting, provocative memoir of a Marine in Iraq — and his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a system trying to hide the damage done
Marine Sergeant Clint Van Winkle flew to war on Valentine’s Day 2003. His battalion was among the first wave of troops that crossed into Iraq, and his first combat experience was the battle of Nasiriyah, followed by patrols throughout the country, house to house searches, and operations in the dangerous Baghdad slums.
But after two tours of duty, certain images would not leave his memory—a fragmented mental movie of shooting a little girl; of scavenging parts from a destroyed, blood-spattered tank; of obliterating several Iraqi men hidden behind an ancient wall; and of mistakenly stepping on a “soft spot,” the remains of a Marine killed in combat. After his return home, Van Winkle sought help at a Veterans Administration facility, and so began a maddening journey through an indifferent system that promises to care for veterans, but in fact abandons many of them.
From riveting scenes of combat violence, to the gallows humor of soldiers fighting a war that seems to make no sense, to moments of tenderness in a civilian life ravaged by flashbacks, rage, and doubt, Soft Spots reveals the mind of a soldier like no other recent memoir of the war that has consumed America.