Before he joined the Army, astronomy major Joe Haldeman had hoped to become a scientist. Combat duty in Vietnam left him with a bullet wound, a Purple Heart, and a burning desire to become a writer. The result has been 28 novels—heavily influenced by the war—including the award-winning The Forever War, one of the most widely read antiwar books of our time. Both his passion and his wry sense of humor show up in this essay.
“Answering the Call” is about people who joined the military and how the experience changed their lives. It certainly did change mine: I’m a writer, and the experience of combat gave me my first novel, War Year, and my most successful one, The Forever War. Many of my other books—28 in the past 40 years—are at least obliquely concerned with the experience of war. Not many people who are touched by combat will ever go through anything as dramatic, and sometimes traumatic as well—and if they’re writers, they will write about it.