Review: The Wax Bullet War by Sean Davis

the wax bullet war cover

The Wax Bullet War: Chronicles of a Soldier and Artist tells the kind of story that seems to be swallowed up whenever it surfaces: an infantry soldier’s experience in Iraq and his return to life in the US.

Describing an attempt to entertain himself while convalescing after he was injured in an IED explosion, Davis recalls:

One day, on the local news, the anchorman reported that three Fort Hood soldiers had been killed in Tikrit, and then abruptly cut to a story on how Halle Berry’s husband was challenging their prenup…Every channel reported nothing, and the only mention of our men and women in combat came in the form of one or two sentences spoken out loud or just scrolled across the bottom of the screen. The war and its casualties had become a footnote to pop culture.

Davis was raised by his father, who worked in the logging industry, and supported himself through high school before enlisting in the army during the Clinton administration. He approaches life experiences with knowledge of classical literature, lessons, a knack for allegory and a love of art, specifically painting.

Sean’s story truly begins on September 12, 2001, when Sean leaves his dead-end job cleaning up roadkill to re-enlist in the National Guard. He and his fellow Oregonian soldiers find themselves in a complicated war that constantly calls on their senses of judgment and morality.

The infantryman of today desperately tries to make friends just as much as he tries to make people dead. I spent more time saving children and deciding who not to shoot than shooting and getting shot at.

Sean finds camaraderie with the fellow Oregonians in his unit, only to lose one of his friends in an explosion that also leaves him profoundly wounded. When he returns, he’s met with people who want to use his story to further their own agendas, survivor’s guilt and PTSD. The rest of the book recalls his low points with self-medicating and toxic relationships, and then his attempts to get himself back together and to recover his artistic pursuits. What finally helps him the most turns out to be a promotion and another tour searching for survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Sean’s writing shows sensitivity and compassion, and this insightful, nuanced memoir is one of the more impressive feathers in Ooligan Press’ cap. If you want to know more about Sean, you can learn about him on his candidate’s site, as he’s currently running for mayor of Portland.

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