Read The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows Online

Authors: Brian Castner

Tags: #Iraq War (2003-), #Special Forces, #Personal Memoirs, #Biography & Autobiography, #Military, #War, #Biography, #History

The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows

BOOK: The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
Brian Castner
Doubleday (2012)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: Non-Fiction, War, Biography

In the tradition of Michael Herr’s
and works by such masters of the memoir as Mary Karr and Tobias Wolff, a powerful account of war and homecoming.
Brian Castner served three tours of duty in the Middle East, two of them as the commander of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. Days and nights he and his team—his brothers—would venture forth in heavily armed convoys from their Forward Operating Base to engage in the nerve-racking yet strangely exhilarating work of either disarming the deadly improvised explosive devices that had been discovered, or picking up the pieces when the alert came too late. They relied on an army of remote-controlled cameras and robots, but if that technology failed, a technician would have to don the eighty-pound Kevlar suit, take the Long Walk up to the bomb, and disarm it by hand. This lethal game of cat and mouse was, and continues to be, the real war within America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Long Walk
is not just about battle itself. It is also an unflinching portrayal of the toll war exacts on the men and women who are fighting it. When Castner returned home to his wife and family, he began a struggle with a no less insidious foe, an unshakable feeling of fear and confusion and survivor’s guilt that he terms The Crazy. His thrilling, heartbreaking, stunningly honest book immerses the reader in two harrowing and simultaneous realities: the terror and excitement and camaraderie of combat, and the lonely battle against the enemy within—the haunting memories that will not fade, the survival instincts that will not switch off. After enduring what he has endured, can there ever again be such a thing as “normal”?
The Long Walk
will hook you from the very first sentence, and it will stay with you long after its final gripping page has been turned.

From the Hardcover edition. Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012:
To those trained in Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the last-resort tactic for defusing bombs is known as the Long Walk: a soldier dealing with the device up close, alone, with no margin for error.
The Long Walk
is Brian Castner's tale of two wars. He fought the first in Iraq, serving two tours dismantling roadside bombs before they exploded, or wading through the grisly carnage of unchecked detonations. The second battle began when he returned home, his life exploding as he stepped from a curb into what he calls the Crazy: a consuming froth of panic and undiagnosed pain that alienated him from his family and compelled him to rig his minivan with ammunition clips for faster reloads while driving through suburbia. With its tense and claustrophobic portraits of the violent streets of Kirkuk, Castner's account is a dead-on description of modern warfare in an unfamiliar land. But it also offers sober insight into the stresses of war on the human body and mind (the effects of blast waves on soft tissues--especially in the brain--are chilling), destruction wrought on those left behind, and the long, lonely walk home. --
Jon Foro


Advance praise for
The Long Walk:

“ ‘
The first thing you should know about me is that I’m Crazy.’ So begins this affecting tale of a modern war and its home-front consequences.... Scarifying stuff...[that is] absolutely worth reading

Kirkus Reviews

The Long Walk
is a raw, wrenching, blood-soaked chronicle of the human cost of war. Brian Castner, the leader of a military bomb disposal team, recounts his deployment to Iraq with unflinching candor, and in the process exposes crucial truths not only about this particular conflict, but also about war throughout history. Castner’s memoir brings to mind Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece,
All Quiet on the Western Front.

—Jon Krakauer, author of *Where Men Win Glory

“Castner has written a powerful book about the long cost of combat and the brotherhood of men at arms. Remarkably, he has made the world of the EOD entertaining, occasionally hilarious, and always harrowing. His honesty is refreshing and the book is written with such candor and openness that one can't help but root for him. And did I mention that it is entertaining? There were scenes at work with the bomb disposal unit where I found myself holding my breath.”
—Anthony Swofford, author of *Jarhead

“Do you want to know a little something about our war in Iraq?  Begin with
The Long Walk,
Brian Castner’s elegant, superbly written story about the bomb-disposal guys.  As you read think of Alan Sillitoe’s
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner
.  Castner gives us that steady rhythm of one foot in front of the other.  Think of Vonnegut’s
.  Here is the reality of the exhausted mind, and of profound thought wandering all Creation: this is what I saw, this is what I did, this is what I have become.  It’s the story of the long walk out, as they say, from the Humvee to the bomb in the street, and the long look back.”
—Larry Heinemann, author of the National Book Award-winning Paco’s Story
Close Quarters

Damn, this is a very human book.  If you have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan, or know someone who has, you need to read
The Long Walk
— Thomas E. Ricks, author of
The Gamble

Copyright © 2012 by Brian Castner
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

DOUBLEDAY and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Jacket design by Ben Wiseman
Jacket photograph © Andy Crawford/ Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Castner, Brian.
The long walk : a story of war and the life that follows / Brian
Castner. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Castner, Brian. 2. Iraq War, 2003—Personal narratives, American. 3. Ordnance disposal units—Iraq. 4. Ordnance disposal units—United States. 5. Iraq War, 2003—Veterans—United States—Biography. 6. United States. Air Force—Officers—Biography.
I. Title.
DS79.766.C37A3 2013
956.7044′3—dc23     2011052419

eISBN: 978-0-385-53621-9


To Jessie, who loves me in spite of all this
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me. Then I said: Until when, Lord? And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate.”
—Isaiah 6:8, 11
“[Providence] became a personality and a dominant force in a world of our own … ‘Luck’—there was no such thing, for luck comes to man whose foresight and planning can ensure perfection to the highest degree possible, and after that, what cannot be planned or foreseen is in the hands of [Providence]. This was Shackleton’s creed.”
—Journal entry of Dr. Eric Stewart Marshall, polar explorer, traveling with Ernest Shackleton to the South Pole in 1908
“Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


Title Page
Author’s Note

Whirl Is King

The Soft Sand


The Daily Grind

The Day of Six VBIEDs



The Science and the Chakras

The Foot in the Box


The Mountain

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