'This is my story, but it is also the story of thousands of Australian veterans from Iraq, East Timor, Afghanistan and other conflicts who bare similar emotional scars. This is what becomes of those men and women we send off to war, pay little attention to, then forget once they are home.'
As a country boy from Queensland, John Cantwell signed up to the army as a private and rose to the rank of major general. He was on the front line in 1991 as Coalition forces fitted bulldozer blades to tanks and buried alive Iraqi troops in their trenches. He fought in Baghdad in 2006 and saw what a car bomb does to a marketplace crowded with women and children. In 2010 he commanded the Australian forces in Afghanistan when ten of his soldiers were killed. He returned to Australia in 2011 to be considered for the job of chief of the Australian Army. Instead, he ended up in a psychiatric hospital.
Exit Wounds is the compassionate and deeply human account of one man's tour of the War on Terror, the moving story of life on a modern battlefield: from the nightmare of cheating death in a minefield, to the poignancy of calling home while under rocket fire in Baghdad, to the utter despair of looking into the face of a dead soldier before sending him home to his mother. He has hidden his post traumatic stress disorder for decades, fearing it will affect his career.
Australia has been at war for the past twenty years and yet there has been no stand-out account from these conflicts—Exit Wounds is it. Raw, candid and eye-opening, no one who reads this book will be unmoved, nor forget its imagery or words.
About the Authors
Major General John Cantwell AO, DSC joined the Australian Army as a private in 1974. He served in the first Gulf War with the Coalition forces between 1990 and 1991, and in the second Gulf War in 2006 and 2007, where he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Army. In 2010 he served a twelve-month tour as the commander of Australian forces in Afghanistan. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in the 2012 Australia Day Honours List. Cantwell retired from the Army in 2012 after 38 years of service. Co-writer Greg Bearup has been a feature writer at the Good Weekend for the past ten years and has twice been awarded a Walkley Award for his writing. In 2004/5 he took leave from his job and lived in Pakistan and filed for various newspapers including the Guardian. He also worked for the UN on various elections and lived in Syria, for the vote of Iraqi refugees, and Bamyan, in the remote mountains of Central Afghanistan.