Wes Moore achieved wide renown for his poignant account of a man who shared his name but not his fate in the bestselling “The Other Wes Moore.” This nonfiction account of the divergent roads taken by two men from the same neighborhood both named Wes Moore–the author who is a Rhodes Scholar and honored US Army veteran and another Wes about the same age, sentenced to life in prison–riveted readers and exposed a lot of difficult questions about luck, choices, and American society’s status quo. Now Moore, who served in Afghanistan, is helping tell the stories of fellow veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as they try to reintegrate back into American society. The PBS series, Coming Back with Wes Moore, continues a venerable and sorrowful story about the ravages and personal cost of war–a story that goes uninterrupted from the ancient Greeks through Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home to the The Best Years of Our Lives to Born on the Fourth of July, to name only a few among millions.
Wes Moore’s three-part series (begins airing on Tuesday, May 13) does a lot of what his famous book did: it tries to tell you what it’s like on the other side. The book talked about what it was like on the other side of hope and prosperity, Coming Back shows us what it’s like on the other side of peace. And how, having visited the other side, one can’t come back unchanged. Coming Back begins with a suicide. (The U.S. military is currently dealing with a suicide epidemic.) But there are stories of encouragement and enlightenment, too. Moore is not reductive: he doesn’t want to tell one story about how tragic it all is, but instead he tells multiple stories that show how complicated it all is. By letting the men and women, where possible, speak for themselves Moore lets us hear stories that don’t often get into the news. And Moore’s method of telling presents another important aspect of the veterans’ stories: it gives the sense, absent in the news, that their stories are ongoing–that their lives are still works in progress. And that these two long wars that are officially “over” still linger in the world, and dominate the hearts and minds of the men and women who fought them.