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The unforgettable story of a military family that lost two sonsone to suicide and one in combatand channeled their grief into fighting the armed forces suicide epidemic.
Major General Mark Graham was a decorated two-star officer whose integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue military careers of their own. His wife Carol was a teacher who held the family together while Mark's career took them to bases around the world. When Kevin and Jeff die within nine months of each otherKevin commits suicide and Jeff is killed by a roadside bomb in IraqMark and Carol are astonished by the drastically different responses their sons deaths receive from the Army. While Jeff is lauded as a hero, Kevins death is met with silence, evidence of the terrible stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness in the military. Convinced that their sons died fighting different battles, Mark and Carol commit themselves to transforming the institution that is the cornerstone of their lives.
The Invisible Front is the story of how one family tries to set aside their grief and find purpose in almost unimaginable loss. The Grahams work to change how the Army treats those with PTSD and to erase the stigma that prevents suicidal troops from getting the help they need before making the darkest of choices. Their fight offers a window into the militarys institutional shortcomings and its resistance to change failures that have allowed more than 3,000 troops to take their own lives since 2001. Yochi Dreazen, an award-winning journalist who has covered the military since 2003, has been granted remarkable access to the Graham family and tells their story in the full context of two of Americas longest wars. Dreazen places Mark and Carols personal journey, which begins when they fall in love in college and continues through the end of Mark's thirty-four year career in the Army, against the backdrop of the militarys ongoing suicide spike, which shows no signs of slowing. With great sympathy and profound insight, The Invisible Front details America's problematic treatment of the troops who return from war far different than when they'd left and uses the Graham familys work as a new way of understanding the human cost of war and its lingering effects off the battlefield.
From the Hardcover edition.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2014: If I were to tell you that this fascinating book chronicles the life of a war hero, youd likely expect to be reading about a Patton-like figure barking out orders or a Mark Owen telling of the capture of Osama Bin Laden. But while Mark Graham was a lifelong soldier who saw more than his share of fighting, it is his actions off the traditional battlefield that make him impressive. (I say traditional battlefield, because the way author Yochi Dreazen depicts the complicated, violent life of soldiers pre and post deployment, you get the feeling an American army base is almost as horrific a theater of warjust one thats more local.) Churchgoing Mark and Carol Graham were a typical lifelong Army couple: they lived on bases and had two sons and one daughter, all of whom were friendly, popular, patriotic kids who roomed together while students at the University of Kentucky; Kevin and Mark were both in ROTC and both planned to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. Kevin never made it: he committed suicide a few weeks after his graduation from officer training school; Jeff was blown to bits soon after his arrival overseas. What surely would have destroyed most families strangely fortified theirs; instead of quitting the army, which Mark briefly considered, he vowed to devote the rest of his career to fixing it. Realizing that some troops suffered wounds you could not see, he launched programs to remove the stigma of suicide and to educate leaders about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Along the way he met with extraordinary resistancefrom bosses and underlings (some of them women)for being too soft; one particularly disturbing incident involved a fake Hurt Feelings questionnaire, devised by soldiers themselves, in which respondents were asked to declare themselves either a pussy or a queer or a little bitch for seeking help. Eventually, some of Grahams ideas were implemented, but it was a case of too little too late; suicides and PTSD violent incidents continued to increase and eventually, he was forced out of the service. Still, the Grahams persevere, rejecting high paying consultancies in the private sector in favor of giving speeches and seminars around the country so that other families wont suffer as they have. And if that doesnt make them heroes, its hard to say what would. Sara Nelson