I’m Reed Bonadonna, author of Soldiers and Civilization. I served for a long time as an infantry officer and field historian in the Marine Corps. I deployed to Lebanon in the early 1980s and to Iraq in 2003. I’m a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, with graduate degrees from Clark University (MA, English) and Boston University (Ph.D., English). I live in Larchmont, NY, a Westchester suburb of New York City. My wife and I raised three sons, two now in college and one graduate living and working in the city.
The origins of Soldiers and Civilization (SAC) likely go back to my early interests in military service. When asked, say, by an older family friend, why I wanted to join the military, I sometimes said that I saw it as a matter of character. I wouldn’t be able to be a good Marine unless I were a good person too. I still feel that way. The military profession may not be entirely unique in this sense, but I think the connection between character and the military occupation is very strong, because of the manifold challenges of military life.
This feeling has made me dissatisfied with some of the ways in which we define military professionalism and how it ought to contribute to the larger society. Hence, years in the making, the main argument of SAC, which (to paraphrase from the book), is that soldiers have made an unacknowledged contribution to the idea and the practice of civilization. We have defended civilization and embodied some of its most important values and aspirations. At other times soldiers have seemed to pull down the temple on themselves and those they were supposed to serve. The soldier is in a sense the most and least civilized of persons, and only by understanding this paradox, its pitfalls and challenges, can the soldiers of our century serve the cause of civilization as we should.
More to follow,