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BIO

Brian Castner is the author of “The Long Walk,” an Amazon Best Book of 2012 and Chautauqua Scientific & Literary Circle selection for 2013. Previously, he served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer in the US Air Force from 1999 to 2007, deploying to Iraq to command bomb disposal units in Balad and Kirkuk in 2005 and 2006. After leaving the active military, he became a consultant and contractor, training soldiers and Marines prior to their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has appeared in a number of national and regional publications, including Wired, The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, and Garry Trudeau’s The Sandbox anthology. Brian lives outside of Buffalo, New York with his wife and four sons.

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chris #

    So proud of you!

    March 5, 2012
  2. Tom Loveless #

    Dear Brian: I am not sure I know where to begin other than to say, well, hello. I have learned of your journey from your wife – she and I are both drudging through our PhD’s – together at UWM. Recently I shared with my cohort my dissertation – investigating the emotional toil some gay men have experienced when they were infected with HIV on purpose – yes, on purpose.

    It’s a private and consequential decision deeply rooted in the drives of stigma, fitting in, wanting to be loved, and the distance one might go to- to prove that. I have interviewed 18 men – and after each interview, I leave emotionally drained each and every time.

    And, so you wonder, why I write you. Well – in trying to explain to my researcher colleagues, and the academic community why would anyone get infected with HIV on purpose – I am learning this about them, that I borrow from you:

    “an outward struggle of surviving the urban combat of modern war in order to return home at all costs, and the inward journey to find the new person that emerges after undertaking such a task”

    I am a fan of metaphor, and see much of it in a wide variety of life stories. In a very imagined way – sharing your story – and the possible linkages like brother hood, camaraderie, and the price one pays when they are alone with their thoughts – is insurmountable. There is no way I could ever thank you for your service, other than to say that your bravery – in so many immeasurable ways, in so many unimagined ways, is humbling. And, I believe when we are humbled, we quickly learn we are all one! Thank you Brian for your unwavering commitment. God Speed. Tom

    March 24, 2012
    • Tom – thanks for writing. I am doing some interviews now for a new book, and find the process to be extremely draining as well. That is quite the topic you have chosen to research, and one that I am sure is not well understood. Good luck in your own endeavors, and I hope you find some meaning in the process as well as the destination.

      March 25, 2012
  3. yourbuddypritch #

    Brian, I just found your blog. I look forward to reading more. I’m also from Buffalo, and I just started a new adventure in Kickboxing–in Thailand. My blog is at http://www.thewellroundedman.com if you’re interested. I love the look of your site as well: Simple and sharp.

    March 29, 2012
    • Thanks for finding me, Pritch – enjoy being a Buffalo expat abroad, and I’ll check your site out.

      March 29, 2012
  4. Sara G #

    I just heard your interview on Fresh Air. I am so impressed by you, and thank you for your service to our country and for sharing your journey. I also find vinyasa yoga to be very helpful in my own life, and am glad that you can find some peace that way. I just wanted to send my greetings and blessings and thanks to you.

    July 9, 2012
  5. George #

    I just finished The Long Walk. I served in two tours in Vietnam and a tour in Iraq with the Army. I felt comfortable in a combat zone but those days are over. In the book “LRRP Team Leader” by John Burford he says about bein home, “I was alone and it hurt, … I was empty. I wished I was back in Vietnam with the people who wanted me and needed me. I missed the rush of combat, the responsibility, the honor. Now everything was gone.”

    I went to the Buffalo VA in the 70’s and reluctantly went back after my tour in Iraq. I know many soldiers that have done and seen worse than I have but I know something is wrong. I’ve had 30 jobs in 40 years and I am currently unemployed. If your shrink says “You’re human” it validates my skepticism about the help I’d get from them. Welcome Home Brother.

    August 24, 2012
    • Hi George – welcome back to you too, and thank you for reading the book. Please don’t be discouraged by my VA experience, because that is hardly how I meant it. I think my Shrink said I was human simply to indicate that not everything that happens to us yields a diagnosis. Sometimes it’s just life. That doesn’t mean you should just buck up and act like everything is better, but rather that there aren’t easy fixes to everything. So maybe the VA could help you, and maybe not, but please don’t let my book be the thing that stops you from trying.

      August 24, 2012
      • George #

        Thanks Brian. I appreciate your reply.

        August 24, 2012
    • Alison #

      Hey there, George. I am a psychotherapist myself and I am sorry you’ve had such a hard time. I interpreted Brian’s therapist’s response to mean that he had a “normal” response to what had happened, that she didn’t see him as a diagnosis, and that anyone would respond the way he did (or similarly in the same circumstances). I find diagnosis to be simply a label and not all that helpful to patients. Please don’t give up. If you find one therapist at the VA and you’re not comfortable, ask for another one. Sooner or later, you’ll find someone you’re comfortable with and that’s half the battle right there. I think that what we do is really more art than science and it’s a matter of having compassion for what human beings go through. No therapist can take your pain away; but, as I see it, we can help carry your burden. There is no magic bullet for life’s traumas but lifting that load, well, I think that’s quite something (having been a patient myself as well). Best of luck to you.

      December 23, 2012
  6. Joe Hedlund #

    Brian,

    I just finished your book for my US History class I am taking at my local community college.

    I enjoyed it very much, I had a hard time putting it down, I may have to go through it again.

    I am 43 years old and I am starting my life all over. After being laid off of work several times my wife convinced me to go back to school. I was a mechanic for 25 years, I worked on Cars, Trucks, Forklifts, just about everything.

    My wife will be graduating from medical school this May. She inspired me to not give up each and every time I got laid off of work. Each time I did get laid off she would say to me I should go back to school. I finally gave in after the fourth time of being laid off, I was stubborn as hell and scared as hell too.

    I want to earn a masters degree in social work so I can work with Veterans at VA hospitals. Your book gave me a very detailed look into what a Veteran goes through day in and out. Not just in the field but back at home. I am sure each Vet has their own story to tell, but reading yours was very educational.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope things are better for you and your family now.

    I enjoyed your Hockey story, was one of your sons playing? If so, were they on the winning or the losing side?

    Take Care, Joe Hedlund

    December 2, 2012
    • Good luck with all your endeavors, and I hope you do get your master’s to do the work you want to do. I am also excited to hear you read the book for a class – that’s wonderful if colleges are picking it up. One of sons was playing hockey, he was 7 at the time, and they won that game. He has since moved up to travel.

      December 3, 2012
    • D. Kim Hamblin, PhD #

      Read Outlaw Platoon, Fearless, The Red Circle, and any of Tim O’Brien’s books about Vietnam. They will all broaden your understanding of war and of the incredible amount of training that our EOD, SEALs,and Special Forcces soldiers go through, how skilled they are, and how dedicated they become to their “brothers”. You will also get some insight into the “grunts”. PTSD’s simplest definition is “a normal reaction to an abnormal event”. The difference among some with PTSD is that they are responding to multiple and continuous traumatic experiences. I am a Clinical Psychologist and AF retiree and have seen many vets. I call PTSD the gift that keeps on giving, because it gets reawakened by various triggers. VAs differ a great deal in the quality of services provided and the skill of the clinicians. Brian has/had PTSD whether he acknowledges it or not or whether the “shrink” applied the label. Labels are for insurance companies and first visits; then we therapists have to address the uniqueness of the person, not the label.

      December 31, 2013
  7. I miss playing Hockey, I played in a House league, it was a lot of fun.

    My son just turned One so we have a little while before he puts on skates, I can’t wait.

    We have read several books for our history class, yours is the last one we had to read.

    It was the best one out of them in my opinion, the subject matter being so recent.

    December 3, 2012
  8. Joni #

    Greetings from northern California. Read your book and was very moved. You’re a very good writer. I wonder how youre feeling now. Still hard to accept everything you described. Turns out that now my book club is reading your book. Some of us will try to see you when you’re interviewed in Campbell later this month. You were brave to volunteer to serve in the military and brave again to write your book. Wishing you healing.
    PS I practice yoga too, for many years. What you call vinyasa, “flow,” I call sirinamaskar.
    Joni

    January 11, 2013
  9. Peter Lee #

    It is a very personal story. I am amazed and grateful at how you opened up and for those who do not get it. They never wanted to see the elephant, even as it stands before them. I hope all is well for your family and yourself and if your ever in Chicago I hope to share a beer or two or three.

    January 19, 2013
  10. Good morning, Brian. I woke up early this morning to finish your remarkable book. Thank you isn’t strong enough but I say it anyway. Thank you! I am 77 years old, a retired Episcopal minister living in West Virginia. After a tour in the Marine Corps with duty in the Southeast Asian region in the late 1950s and early 60s, I went to seminary and began a ministry that has been grounded in social justice work, much of it based in antiwar activity, much of it with returning veterans. Right after 9/11 I began organizing people in West Virginia to keep our nation from going to war in Iraq. We continue that work trying
    to get our troops home and our country alert not to make the mistakes we have made in countless wars, particularly this side of Vietnam. For thirty years or more I have written a regular piece I have called Notes From Under the Fig Tree (www.figtreenotes.com) which I now post every three weeks. Your book has touched me and inspires me to keep at my work and my writing. Peace and blessings! Jim Lewis

    January 29, 2013
  11. So glad I stumbled across this! I have a friend serving overseas at this moment and as I have no experience with such an experience your writing allows me the chance to better understand what he may be going through. I now now definitely plan on reading your book as well.

    May 10, 2013
  12. Jessica #

    Brian, As I’m reading your book i’m curious on what rifle you had?

    October 14, 2013
    • Hi Jessica – I spend all of Chapter 7 answering that, so rather than ruin it for you, I’ll let you get there and find out!

      October 14, 2013
  13. Jessica #

    Thank you :)

    October 14, 2013
  14. Patty #

    Our book club discussed your book this evening. For the first time, we had a child show up, a fourth grader!, who had read your book. The others of us were some women (including his mother), and one man. We all appreciated your book– the yogis among us, the people from military families (including one person whose father was killed in a Chinook crash) and the people who knew very little to nothing about military life. We felt it did a good job of helping us understand better how it feels to be Crazy. We mentioned parts of the book that stood out to us–one person mentioned how the grandma wisely told her granddaughter that the husband who goes away to war never returns; for me it was the scene where you were putting hockey gear onto your son; for another it was the paragraph in which you stated that the only reason those people were trying to kill you was that they didn’t realize it was you. So many strong images, helping us to understand. Thank you for your book!

    Patty in Seattle

    October 31, 2013
    • Thank you for sharing that Patty – it’s wonderful to hear about the discussions in book clubs, and how different sections speak to different people.

      October 31, 2013
  15. D. Kim Hamblin, PhD #

    Brian, I wrote a review of your book on Amazon, though I listened to the book on Audible. I bought the print copy for the yoga terms since my daughter is studying to be a certified yoga instructor and I wanted to share parts of it with her. It seemed helpful to you because you kept going back to it. I admire your courage for serving, for continuing to serve as an educator as a trainer for EOD specialists and people like me who can never fully understand what it was/is like to serve in such brutal wars. You have contributed to our incomplete understanding.

    December 31, 2013
  16. I finished your book a few days ago, It was really tough to close the book, it felt like losing my best friend I just started to get to know so well.

    I thank you for showing me the world at the frontlines it sort of showed me what veterans go through. My best friend was serving aswell but sadly he died saving one of his comerades he was 22, at least he died as a true hero

    So honestly, thank you
    For your help to bring a bit more safety and peace in the world for the ones who aren’t as lucky as us.

    – LLW

    June 14, 2014
  17. Rebecca #

    I just finished your book and I am passing it on to one of your EOD brothers with the same struggles from war in hopes that he will seek help. Thanks for all the sacrifices you have made.

    July 20, 2014

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