So what happens after the shooting stops and the flags are furled? Most people just go back to their lives. But for many others, their lives stopped; sometimes permanently, sometimes for weeks, months and years, when their loved ones were killed in the fighting.
The author is one of those who went 'searching for the bodies' and the stories, decades after the end of Would War I. He tried to discover why his grandfather was so emotionally distant. So after his grandfathers death, he went looking for experiences in a war that shaped his grandfathers life. While on that 'trip' he also discovered the stories of the men who fought and died within the same company. He also discovered the stories of men who tried to find their sons and brothers, and mothers who never gave up hope that their sons would be discovered, or at least their bodies recovered. In many cases, the author follows the men from their lives as civilians before the war, to their adventures after enlisting and in training camps, and then their mind-numbing experiences in combat.
World War I is mostly forgotten now. I believe the last American WW I veteran died recently. As a former Marine and a Civil War reenactor, I am familiar with the stories of casualties in numerous wars. But I have never been able to understand the terrible loss of life in World War I. You would think that our so-called great generals of this war would have learned from the stupid mistakes of the idiot generals who had been bleeding their countries dry for the three years before we got into the war, but it didn't happen.
That is the sad side of this interesting story, the unbelievable casualties that Company D and hundreds of other companies suffered because our generals wanted to prove that Americans could die just as well as Europeans. The other side is the pride we should feel, after reading these stories, for the men who willingly went to war to make the world 'safe for democracy.' Many of those who died were not born citizens of the United States, but went to war in Europe to ensure that war would not come to America. Maybe we should make this book required reading for members of Congress so they would hopefully understand how stupid their political games look against this backdrop of human sacrifice.
If you ever visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps (free admission) in Quantico, Virginia, make certain you see the short film of the Marines assaulting across a French field into Belleau Wood. After seeing that film, I thanked God I was in the Marines during Viet Nam and not during World War I.