Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Thank you very much for contributing to our June Membership Drive! If you didn't have a chance to donate, please do so at any time. We look forward to your support!

On Veterans Day, here are stories that honor heroes and homecoming

The Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in New York City.
Johannes Eisele
AFP via Getty Images
The Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in New York City.

We dug into the NPR Books archives to find stories of combat and coping. Scroll down to explore novels, memoirs and poetry by veterans, as well as chronicles of war and returning from war — both historical and present day:

'Half American' explores how Black WWII servicemen were treated better abroadThough more than one million Black Americans contributed to the war effort, historian Matthew Delmont says a military uniform offered no protection from racism. (Fresh Air, Nov. 7, 2022)

A retired Marine and a photojournalist confront war's 'Invisible Injuries'Marine Sgt. TJ Brennan suffered from memory loss after being injured by a grenade in Afghanistan in 2010. Finbarr O'Reilly captured the event on film. The two men have written a memoir. (Fresh Air, Aug. 24, 2017)

WWII by the books: the pocket-size editions that kept soldiers readingIn the 1940s, U.S. publishers printed paperbacks — everything from romances to Westerns — that were designed for battle. Molly Guptill Manning explores their history in When Books Went to War. (Morning Edition, Dec. 10, 2014)

In 'Waiting for Eden,' grief with no guarantee of closureAuthor Elliot Ackerman is a veteran, and his novel is about an injured soldier just regaining consciousness. But it's really about something else. "This book really isn't about war," he says. (Morning Edition for Sept. 25, 2018)

A Purple Heart warrior takes aim at military inequality in 'Shoot Like a Girl'Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar is part of a lawsuit that argues excluding women from combat is unconstitutional. She says the lawsuit isn't about women's rights – it's about military effectiveness. (Fresh Air, March 2, 2017)

Soldiers turned authors want you to know: Our books don't speak for all"At no point did I think that I would be defining the veteran experience," says author Phil Klay. He's part of a growing cadre of veterans writing fiction about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (All Things Considered, Aug. 8, 2016)

'Thank You for Your Service' follows America's soldiers homeJournalist David Finkel embedded with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion during the troop surge in Iraq, then recorded their stories. This book chronicles the struggles of those who made it home, from their recurring nightmares and suicidal thoughts to the challenges of getting help. (All Things Considered, Oct. 1, 2013)

An Iraq veteran, heroin addict, bank robber and debut novelistNico Walker wrote his semi-autobiographical novel Cherry while in federal prison for bank robbery. The narrator is a combat medic, but still feels like a fraud – he spends less time treating his fellow soldiers than collecting their body parts after bomb attacks. (All Things Considered, Aug. 13, 2018)

WWII 'Deserters': Stories of men who left the front linesJournalist Charles Glass explores the little-known history of thousands of American and British soldiers who deserted during World War II. Glass describes how the strain of war can push a soldier to the breaking point — and how the line between courage and cowardice is never simple. (Fresh Air, June 17, 2013)

Stories from a new generation of American soldiersMore than 10 years since a new generation of Americans went into combat, the soldiers themselves are starting to write the story of war. Three works of fiction — The Long Walk, The Yellow Birds and Fobbit — show how their experiences give them the authority to describe the war, fictionalize it and even satirize it. (Morning Edition, Sept. 11, 2012)

A mother's 'Minefields' when a child deploysWriter Sue Diaz was surprised when her son Roman told her that he was joining the Army. She writes about the emotional roller coaster her family experienced when her son left for war — and how her relationship with Roman changed — in her 2010 memoir, Minefields of the Heart. (Fresh Air, Aug. 17, 2010)

Sebastian Junger on the thrill and hell of 'War'Junger visited Afghanistan's Korengal Valley five times as a reporter embedded with part of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade as it attempted to thwart the Taliban in rough mountain terrain. In 2010 he published War, his attempt to understand what makes combat so appealing to young men. (Morning Edition, May 11, 2010)

'Matterhorn' author on 'What It Is Like to Go to War'As a Marine in Vietnam, Karl Marlantes learned to fire an M16, to command a platoon, to fight and to kill — but he was never taught how to deal with killing. In his 2011 memoir, What It Is Like to Go to War, he comes to terms with the guilt and the thrill of combat, and the challenge of coming home. (Talk of the Nation, Aug. 30, 2011)

'Operation Homecoming': the writings of warWhen editor Andrew Carroll first read Ryan Alexander's "The Cat," the startling imagery of the former Marine's poem took his breath away. After all, troops aren't known for readily sharing their innermost feelings — certainly not with a wide audience. The poem is part of a collection called Operation Homecoming. (Morning Edition, July 4, 2007)

'No Ordinary Joes' tells stories of love and warBob Palmer, Chuck Vervalin, Tim McCoy and Gordy Cox were teenagers when the Japanese sank their submarine in World War II. Author Larry Colton tells their story of tragedy and survival in his 2010 book No Ordinary Joes: The Extraordinary True Story of Four Submariners in War and Love and Life. (Talk of the Nation, Oct. 5, 2010)

'America's First Warriors':Native Americansmark military serviceNative-Americans have been influential in the U.S. military for more than 200 years. They assisted George Washington, served during the War of 1812 and have continued to defend the country into the 21st century. War correspondent and photojournalist Steven Clevenger talks about his 2010 book America's First Warriors. (Tell Me More, Nov. 11, 2010)

'Death and After in Iraq': memoir of a mortuaryMarine Jess Goodell spent eight months recovering and processing the remains of fallen troops in the Mortuary Affairs unit. "I don't think I ever stopped smelling death when I was in Iraq," she says. Goodell describes her experience in her 2011 memoir Shade It Black. (Talk of the Nation, June 21, 2011)

'The Things They Carried,' 20 years onIn war, there are no winners. That's what readers have taken away from Tim O'Brien's book about the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried, in the 20 years since its publication. O'Brien discusses what he still carries from his time in Vietnam. (Talk of the Nation, March 24, 2010)

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

NPR Staff