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Things They Cannot Say

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  257 ratings  ·  45 reviews
What is it like to kill? What is it like to be under fire? How do you know what's right? What can you never forget?

In The Things They Cannot Say, award-winning journalist and author Kevin Sites asks these difficult questions of eleven soldiers and marines, who—by sharing the truth about their wars—display a rare courage that transcends battlefield heroics.

For each of these
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by HarperCollins (first published October 9th 2012)
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This was a powerful, painful, and utterly haunting book. Not to mention the added intensity of internet links which provided actual video footage of uncensored battles, injuries, and everyday life in Iraq and Afghanistan that supplement the book itself. (And, of course, I had to watch each and every one of these bloody and disturbing videos because I’m me and totally twisted like that.)

In this wonderfully written book, stories are gathered from those who have served not only in the American mili
I read this alongside The Outpost (see review). This is a compelling, nuanced, and honestly introspective memoir of first-hand experiences in war. He begins with an anecdote about his guilt over failing to stop US soldiers from executing an unarmed prisoner. He is also burdened with remorse for failing to report in a timely manner (when it may have influenced America's view of the war in Iraq) other atrocities he witnessed as an embedded journalist. Although I don't recommend The Outpost, it was ...more
This has to be one of the most intense books I have ever read. I am not a soldier, nor has anyone very close to me been in situations such as the stories told in this book. I am not quite sure why I entered the goodreads drawing to win this book, but I am so glad that I did.

At times throughout the book, the stories of war, death and the emotions were so great that I felt as though I could cry for all the pain the people were going through. It is not another war book though. It captures the lives
Todd Tisch
Absolutely intense and personal look into the acts of commission and omission that our servicemen and women face in war and how they bring it back with them. This book is compiled through interviews with soldiers of different nations and from wars from Vietnam to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The mental stresses they bring back with them and the toll it has on them makes the stark realization that we as a nation have a future filled with individuals who served their country willingly ...more
This book very clearly addresses a problem that our society tends to place out of sight, the effects of war on those who are actually engaged in it. We tend to keep our conflicts at an arms length, especially the most current one, which puts us in a poor position to understand the experiences that our soldiers go through. As a person who is in the presence of death nearly every time I work, I can understand the burden that it places on your psyche. This book clearly tells the tale of soldiers fr ...more
I have a kind of weird criticism for this? The focus is ostensibly the soldiers and their stories and the "things they cannot say." But a lot of the book is about the author, who seems to be as deeply haunted by his demons as some of his interviewees' are by theirs. if this were an autobiography, why not? but to me it seemed disrespectful that he had to constantly interrupt other peoples' stories to remind us about his experiences and his guilt and his etc. was it a way of showing how genuinely ...more

If you want to get a firsthand account of what horrors some of our soldiers have seen and been through, and what the after effects are that follow them home to their regular lives and families, read this book. We may never have to go through what they did, but seeing their side and seeing some of their photos will make you see things in a different light too.

Bruce Nordstrom
Jul 13, 2014 Bruce Nordstrom rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians. Citizens of the United States.
This book is one of the greatest books I've read in the last few years. This is a journalist interviewing American soldiers in Iraq, and Afganistian, and then followup stories from what has happened to them when they get back home. It becomes depressing to see how many of them have turned to drugs, alachol, and suicide to ease the pain of their wartime experiences. The author does not spare himself, or make judgements, but rather includes his own experiences as a war reporter and cameraman. He h ...more
Mark Heywood
I read a lot of history books, particularly on war. Most history is about war, as sadly war often defines us. Most books I read on this subject focus only on what happened, why and the outcome on nations. This book is about what happens to those we send to fight them, a much lesser told story, but one that really needs to be understood by more people. The book is not explicitly anti or pro war, it just explains the hidden cost most want to ignore. For me the message is not for a nation to avoid ...more
Bryan Salgado
Well first of all, this book is amazing in many ways. Kevin Sites really got to know these soldiers that are out there suffering all day long for the war and to see him out there too also made me thing that he is pretty brave. I really like the way of how he introduces the reader to the soldier that he is interviewing, by talking about his past, or where he was from, it's pretty essential that he would put that in because it keeps me more interested. Overall this book is pretty great if you want ...more
Only on page 132 and am finding it increasingly difficult to read this book for any length of time at one sitting. It is not that the book is not well written, it is because it is an intense, emotional drain. I find myself vacillating between the urge to cry from bone-deep sorrow and wanting-to-scream-at-someone in anger for what these boys/men endured and continue to endure. Though truthfully the word endure seems to fall far short of their experience. I believe some books require reading if on ...more
Anthony Fowlkes
Apr 11, 2013 Anthony Fowlkes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
“THE THINGS THEY CANNOT SAY” written by Kevin Sites, an independent cameraman that goes into combat zones with Soldiers and Marines to document what really happens in the heat of war. This book follows the lives of several people in the U.S and foreign armed forces and their hardships during and post war. Kevin Sites wrote this book with the intention of informing. He’s also posted several YouTube videos of what he recorded. It’s very informative. The book also is meant to give insight into a Ma ...more
I read Sites memoir "In the Hot Zone" a few years back. This book is a memoir of sorts but it is a way of working through the author's PTSD by interviewing others he has come into contact with and their reactions to things they did and did not do in war. While one take away is it helps to talk through one's traumatic experience and reaction to it; another is the politicians who send troops into war have in the past and are not doing enough now to assist veterans upon their return from combat.
Vanessa Craine
Worth reading, if only to validate the emotions and courage of the people who have seen themselves and others at their best, and at their worst, and have come forward with their tales of survival. I think the General Public May have a hard time relating, and the stories can seem shallow for such a deep subject. I am chalking that up to the fact that the author is a journalist, and in that capacity, reports the events as accurately and as impartial as possible.
This was an interesting insight into the mind of returning soldiers. You see and hear of so many who have a hard time readjusting to civilian life, and this explains why.

There are so many things they shield us from- not only the terrorists they keep us safe from, but all the details of just what it takes to do that. While I understand why they don't want to share those things with their loved ones, I wish more of them felt safe enough to talk to someone about those things without fear of judgmen
Gripping stories of the author and the soldiers and marines he came in contact with during years as a journalist. At times, the stories are difficult to listen to because you know that bad things are going to happen to good people; but that is the theme of the book - how people recover (or fail to recover) from the aftermath of combat. For the most part, the author steers away from merging the politics of war into the book, of which I'm glad and instead sticks to the emotional and physical torme ...more
7/31/13. A must read for anyone who cares about veterans. Kevin Sites has done a good job of looking at the hidden costs of war on the young men our country sends to fight our wars. This book does a wonderful job of explicating the psychological and spiritual wounds combat inflicts on those who fight as well as those who observe. As a 2013 book, I wish Sites had included a woman's experience/perspective but hopefully he will do this in his next work. As a trauma psychologist, I was very pleased ...more
Jackie Roberts
I thought it was excellent because Kevin is writing from his heart and experience...not as an observer. It is not an "easy read" as it is painful to re-live the experiences of the soldiers. It took brave men to live it and a very brave man to write it.
Joyce Ferrante
I won "The Things They Cannot Say" from Goodreads First Read for free. This is an amazing book - especially if you know someone who is serving in or has served in the military, as I have. It is very thought-provoking, deep and intense, and eye opening to what our soldiers experience as they serve our country to protect our freedoms. Their stories are heart-breaking as they talk about what they experienced while overseas. No matter what we do hear from them, we will never fully understand what th ...more
Christopher Schmidt
As a veteran this book helped me realize that I am not alone. There are so many stories left untold. A great read.
Good book; a worthy read for anyone who knows a combat veteran and wishes to understand.
I’m not going to candy coat here – this is an intense and sometimes sad book. Eleven soldiers, from around the world,tell their candid story about the war they participated in and its affect on them (and their families) both while they were in theater and on their return home. Their honest introspection permits an insight into the battlefield realities and demands on these combatants that in every case challenged their concept of their own humanity. Many of the stories contain a post script on l ...more
The military spends a few months "breaking you down" to "build you back up" in their image and then send you off to kill and be surrounded by chaos and life and death and all the horrors of war. Then they just send you back into life with no reversal of basic training. What do they expect? I suppose it takes a certain kind of person to kill and not have it ruin them, but if this book (and so many like it) are any indication, most soldiers are not that type of creature. It's so sad what war does ...more
I recieved this book through a First Reads giveaway.

I originally signed op for this book for my husband, who reads mostly military books. In the end I liked it more than him.

The stories are amazing, and its shocking to hear some of the things said. Its heartbreaking to imagine so many young men killing others. Its given me a lot of perspective.

I would recommend this to any American. We should all strive to understand the sacrifices being made for us.
Ann Palmer
Whatever you think of war, of the military or of battleground history, you should read this book. The stories are about soldiering and the toll that it takes on the individuals doing the soldiering during and, more importantly, after returning from combat. While the exemplary narrative doesn't always support the author's conclusions, the revelations and candid dialog of the subjects are compelling. This is a memorable read.
This book does an excellent job of illustrating the human cost of war. It includes interviews with veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as WWII and Vietnam. The author weaves in his own struggle with PTSD from his time as a war correspondent. He also does a fantastic job of describing people's diverse reactions to going to war that range from the horrified to the excited.
Powerful nonfiction. The kind of book where you think that all the writer had to do was stand back and let these people tell their stories, and then you think about all that goes into that--gaining their trust, deciding what to and what not to publish, the editing process. Nothing here is shocking but all of it is worth reading.
Long Williams
" ..... But that is perhaps the greatest danger of telling war stories—our desire to make them mean something more than what they are." - Author

Says it all.

I enjoyed the perspective but felt it was about Mr Sites' road to redemption rather than a medium for the returned servicemen.

War is hell ..... Always will be.
Chad Baker
This is a tough read, not because it isn't interesting but because it's so sad. If you are pro war this could affect your viewpoint (maybe). Selfishly I wish I had not read this because I felt better not knowing. I have incredible sympathy for these people and will never look at a veteran the same way.
Nicole Marble
A book about war and PTSD.
Soldiers experience things too awful to contemplate and then have to live with it.
Sites interviews soldiers who were traumatized by Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
War is not a good thing.
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Kevin Sites has spent the past decade reporting on global war and disaster for ABC, NBC, CNN, and Yahoo! News. In 2005, he became Yahoo!’s first correspondent and covered every major conflict in the world in a single year for his website, “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone.”

The project helped inspire the use of “backpack journalism” as tool for immersive reporting. He is the author of two books for Harp
More about Kevin Sites...
In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars Swimming with Warlords: A Dozen-Year Journey Across the Afghan War

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“Killing is the ultimate refutation of our own humanity.” 0 likes
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