Just Another Soldier by Jason Hartley and Company C by Haim Watzman

I recently read two books about the lives of two soldiers in two different armies. The first, Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq by Jason Hartley, is about a New York National Guardsman who was called up to serve a year in Iraq. The second, Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel by Haim Watzman, is about an American Jew who emigrated to Israel and served as a reservist in the Israeli Army.

Both authors offer unique experiences and perspectives serving in their respective armies. Hartley is an example of a modern American soldier – he keeps a blog while in training to go to Iraq and then e-mails his friends stories during his deployment in Iraq. Watzman is a religious Jew who is caught between two opposing sides – not just between Palestinian and Israeli Jew, but also between ultraconservative religious Jews and secular Jews.

I liked Hartley’s on-the-edge narratives of life in the Army and in Iraq. His descriptions are often humorous and always candid. He does not hold back on his opinions of the Army or his fellow soldiers. Although a bit too profane in some instances, Hartley gets his points across clearly and succinctly.

In addition, Hartley shows that he is a patriotic soldier who does not blindly follow his leaders. This willingness to sometimes go his own way gets him in trouble with his company commander in regards to his blog and the content on it. The book ends with him explaining his punishment and his feelings on that punishment.

I also found Watzman’s book an interesting read because it is an insightful look at a reserve unit that was called up to active duty to serve in some of Israel’s hardest situations – he served from 1984 through the nineties. He explains the friction that existed in his unit between ultraconservative Jews who believe that no land should be given to the Palestinians and secular Jews who are willing to giving the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to the Palestinians to attain peace. Watzman believes that the occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are wrong and that the Israelis need to pull out.

If you want a perspective of the daily challenges that soldiers face in modern war, read both books.

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