The unforgettable story of a military family that lost two sons – one to suicide and one in combat – and channeled their grief into fighting the armed forces’ suicide epidemic
Yochi J. Dreazen
- Imprint: Crown Publishers
- On sale: October 7, 2014
- Price: $26.00
- Pages: 320
- ISBN: 9780385347839
Accolades for The Invisible Front:
Finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, jointly awarded by the Harvard and Columbia graduate programs in journalism
“A journalistic tale that shines a revealing—and a disturbing—light on the ongoing emotional legacy of America’s two most recent wars.” —Publishers Weekly
It’s no secret that the military has a woefully inadequate approach to mental illness. Over the past 12 years, more than 2,000 soldiers have taken their own lives, and stories about the mismanagement of hundreds of VA hospitals across the country continue to outrage Americans. THE INVISIBLE FRONT: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War by Yochi Dreazen (Crown; on sale October 7, 2014) is the profoundly human story of one military family’s quest to find purpose in tragedy and offers a new way of understanding the legacy of America’s two longest wars. The Grahams lost two sons—one to suicide and one in combat—and devoted their lives to fighting the military’s suicide epidemic. THE INVISIBLE FRONT details our country’s problematic treatment of troops who return from war far different than when they’d left, and offers a new way of understanding the human cost of war and its lingering effects, both on and off the battlefield. Dreazen, managing editor at Foreign Policy, is one of the most respected military journalists in the country and has been covering the military since 2002. He spent two years running the Wall Street Journal’s bureau in Baghdad, has reported extensively from more than 20 countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia, and won the Military Reporters & Editors Association’s top award for domestic military reporting in 2010 for a series of articles on the military’s mental health crisis.
Major General Mark Graham, a decorated two-star officer, joined the military shortly after Vietnam. His integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue their own careers in military service. Just as his oldest son Jeff was preparing for his first tour in Iraq, Kevin, at the age of 22, hung himself—succumbing to the depression that had been a part of his life since childhood. Less than a year later, Jeff, age 25, died in an IED attack in Iraq. After losing both sons within nine months of each other, Mark and his wife, Carol, were directly confrontedwith the shame that surrounds suicide in the armed forces in the form of the very different ways their tight-knit military community marked their sons’ deaths. While Jeff was celebrated as a hero, Kevin’s death was met with silence—evidence of a deeply rooted stigma.
Dreazen first met the Grahams in 2009 when Mark was commander of Fort Carson, one of the largest military bases in the country, which had an exceptionally high suicide rate. While there, Mark and Carol committed themselves to reducing the stigma surrounding PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and mental illness and making it easier for troubled soldiers to get the care they needed. Their efforts put them in direct conflict with an entrenched military bureaucracy that considered mental health problems to be a display of weakness and refused to acknowledge the severity of its suicide problem. Dreazen spent hours with Mark and Carol, listening to what he calls “the story of this seemingly perfect family that had suffered unimaginable losses.” Dreazen understood from his own experience the horrors of PTSD and depression. After spending two years living in Iraq, much of that time embedded with frontline combat troops, he returned to the States profoundly changed. Unable to overcome feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression, Dreazen began to think of suicide. A close friend in the military correctly identified that he was suffering from severe PTSD and Dreazen was able to receive the help he needed.
That terrifying chapter in his life allowed Dreazen to think deeply about how unprepared we are to deal with the hundreds of thousands of soldiers returning home from war with PTSD and the many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who take their own lives. Dreazen had stayed in close contact with Mark and Carol, and saw their story as a remarkable entry point into broader issues in military culture. Intimately reported, THE INVISIBLE FRONT begins when the couple meetsin college and traces the lives and deaths of their sons using diary entries, emails, and dozens of interviews with those who knew the boys best. Dreazen also examines how Mark used his time at Fort Carson to test his own methods of suicide prevention. Although he faced fierce resistance from other officers, the changes that Mark brought lowered the base’s suicide numbers sharply, and many of those reforms have since been adopted elsewhere in the military.
Told with great sympathy and deep understanding, THE INVISIBLE FRONT examines the military’s problematic treatment of its soldiers and offers the Graham family’s work as a new way of understanding how to minimize the risk of suicide, substance abuse, and PTSD on and off the battlefield.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yochi Dreazen, managing editor of Foreign Policy, is one of the most respected military journalists in the country. He covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Wall Street Journal and has reported from more than 20 countries. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and other publications. The Invisible Front is his first book and was the finalist for the 2014 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award. He lives in Washington, D.C.