“War is hell”. Most of us know this however, from a certain safe distance, except those who are in it; in the physical hellishness of war. Towards the end of the book the author discusses another book “Black Hearts” by Jim Frederick, an account of one platoon’s descent into madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death. Diaz says, he writes a factual and fair account of “lonely outposts, insurgent safe-houses, cold canals, farm fields crisscrossed by enemy fire, and streets as dangerous as they were dusty”. This is the physical hellishness of war that despite being gruesome, is, for most of us, at a certain geographical safe distance.
But in this book, Minefields of the Heart, Diaz writes about the heart wrenching mental anguish that obliterates the distance between those serving in the war and their loved ones, seemingly living ordinary lives, among other ordinary people. For the loved ones of those serving in a war, war is not just hell but it is a hell with a power to bring back wonderful memories (of a child drumming to a different beat, of a hug, of a kiss, of a stroll), yet with no ability to influence the future course of outcome. Though this is a story of the author and her son and family, in many ways it also celebrates the bravery of all of our young men and women who serve in the war and the resilience of their loved ones. Diaz writes the story of the hell that she as a mother and her family lived in for four years, when her son Roman, who became Sergeant Roman Diaz, served on the tour of duty in Iraq’s Triangle of Death. It is so clearly written from a mother’s heart that I cried at almost every page, even though my son had only mentioned once, his desire to join the army. As a mother, I felt Diaz’s pain, her anguish, her worry. But as a critic, I also appreciate the candor, an honest account of things as they were. I also enjoyed her sweet sense of humor and the letters from SpongeBob (Roman’s favorite tortoise). The account of her family and friends was heart warming, to think that there is a village that supports each of our sons and daughters who serve in the war.
The beautiful human portrait of Roman Diaz that emerged was sweet. It is an honor to know such a fine young man behind the uniform and also a reminder that behind each uniform there is a family, perhaps a wife, a mother, a husband, a sister, a child. They are in service as well, waking up at nights, answering the door bell with a deep sense of dread, glued to the TV for news; in the absence of their loved ones, only half celebrating the holidays. When their loved ones do not return, their hell lasts, in some ways, forever. When their loved ones do return with trauma and other injuries, their hell also lasts in some ways, for a long long time. Wars impact families, relationships, the very fabric of our society, on a scale so large, create craters of anguish so deep, that very little might justify being engaged in one and that little ought to be immensely carefully considered.