Written by Marine Corps veteran Tyler Boudreau, Packing Inferno (Feral House) traces his 12-year career as a Marine, from boot camp in South Carolina to the first siege on Fallujah in 2004. Boudreau’s transformation from eager recruit, to a professional-minded Marine torn between an intense desire to experience combat and a growing skepticism about the operations in which he is participating, and finally to a Commanding Officer who lost faith in the mission, is told in deeply personal detail. Boudreau, an Iraq war veteran grappling head on with the psychological trauma left by war, refuses to be silent. His transformation is reflective of the broader American discontent about a war and occupation with no end in sight, and no moral compass left to guide it.
Packing Inferno digs deep in to the morass of the Iraq war as only a veteran of the conflict can. With rare candor, Boudreau’s account takes readers into the experience of war and all its contradictions. Early in his tour he embraced the call to win “hearts and minds,” politely waving at each Iraqi he met. Yet he confesses that, “most of the Marines, like me, were hungry for blood,” and recounts the unbridled joy he felt after he first saw combat. Eventually Boudreau relates the creeping skepticism that set in at the impossible task of distinguishing civilians from combatants.
Slowly he comes to believe that American military forces are only creating more insurgents with each attack, and that the war’s inevitable consequence is irreversible turmoil in Iraq and even civil war. Back in the U.S. in 2005, preparing for a second tour in Iraq, Boudreau realizes he loves his Marines more than the mission, and feels professionally obligated to relinquish his command and resign his commission. Boudreau’s final assignment as a Marine is not on the battlefield, but as the OIC of 2d Marine Regiment’s rear echelon, assigned the unenviable task of alerting the families of wounded Marines. It is during this time, in what he describes as the most difficult job he’s ever done, that Boudreau notices the overwhelming numbers of service members returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress. Boudreau starts to wonder why it is never part of his script to tell a mother or a father that, “Your boy is coming home with a broken heart.” If Boudreau left the Marines in 2005, his battles had only begun. From chronic insomnia to sudden bursts of rage, Packing Inferno takes us inside the mind of a soldier struggling to make peace with the demons of war. Boudreau calls on readers not to avert their eyes from the ugly psychological wounds carried by many veterans and to declare loud and clear, “War did this.”
Tyler Boudreau, a twelve-year veteran of the Marine Corps infantry, was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as Assistant Operation Officer for an infantry battalion. Following the deployment he was assigned as the Commanding Officer of a rifle company and was preparing to return to Iraq when he resigned his commission because of his growing reservations about the war. He is the founder of Collaborative Revolution, a new not-for-profit humanitarian project to assist Iraqi refugees and immigrants resettled in the US. He maintains a blog at: www.deeperthanwars.blogspot.com