After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed
The Economy of Patriotism
This chapter focuses on exchanges between injured soldiers and the volunteers, visiting celebrities, and other grateful strangers who surround them at Walter Reed. It argues that these encounters are embedded in an unruly moral economy of patriotism in which injured soldiers are understood to have sacrificed themselves on behalf of the nation, and the nation is supposed to be grateful in return. Such gratitude is expressed in narrow forms of recognition that ignore the reality of violence and injury while simultaneously claiming to recognize it. The chapter shows that soldiers did not join the military for the patriotic reasons such forms of recognition assume and explores how soldiers navigate this experience of misrecognition.