Paying With Their Bodies by John M. Kinder

John M. Kinder is an American Studies professor at Oklahoma State University who specializes in the history of war and American culture. He is most interested in war’s aftermath, including how nations and veterans deal with a wide range of post-war issues.

So it’s no surprise that Kinder’s new book, Paying With Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran (University of Chicago, 368 pp., $18, Kindle; $30, hardcover), is a cultural history of America’s disabled veterans. The book, which concentrates on twentieth century wars, covers America’s conflicts from the Civil War through the latest conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Kinder’s main theme is what he calls the Problem of the Disabled Veteran. Said problem: how the nation deals with its war wounded. Kinder identifies two main  “fantasies” involved in the Problem. One is the generally pro-war attitude that the U.S. can remain a global military power “without incurring the social, economic and physical consequences associated with veterans’ disabilities.” The other is the antiwar belief that Americans “will permanently reject war because of the risks to soldiers’ bodies and minds.”

In this well-written, if at times academically tinged tome, Kinder mixes in sketches of well-known disabled veterans (including Harold Russell from World War II, Ron Kovic from the Vietnam War, and Tammy Duckworth from Iraq) with bigger-picture, societal and political issues.

The author’s website is

—Marc Leepson