A Q&A with John Conrad

A Q&A with John Conrad

Posted on May 18 by John Conrad in Interview, Non-fiction
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Tell us about your book: What was your inspiration? Were there overarching themes you felt compelled to explore?

I was inspired to write about my tour in Afghanistan after I came home in 2006 and this resulted in the strict accounting of events and combat actions described in my first book, What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Afghanistan (2009). This book is a war story of a logistics unit.  It is all about the “up and out” experiences of my battalion. 

Then I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011. As my mental health continued to deteriorate, I came to appreciate that my subconscious was working overtime on a couple of issues.  I knew I had to return to the 2006 battlefields of Kandahar and explore the internal landscape of what happened to me. To us. 

There are numerous silent casualties of Canada’s war in Afghanistan and I am not just referring to wounded soldiers.  I include families and loved ones when it comes to carrying the psychological wounds of war. In my new book, Among the Walking Wounded, I explore the core themes of families; caring for our veterans (which is sub-par in Canada); and tackling the stigma of PTSD. The book started with my own need to understand things I had learned about myself and ended up as a love letter to all soldiers and those who care for them.


Were there parts of the writing process that terrified you or left you exhilarated?

Recounting my internal dialogue during the double IED attack on July 22, 2006 was terrifying. It was a moment of combat when I feared I might lose, not just my own life, but every vehicle and soldier in my convoy during a complex ambush. Even now, I am anxious about the naked thoughts that I have shared.  The observations are blisteringly honest and of course they have to be.  I learned some things about myself, however, that perhaps I would be better off without. I was scared when I put them on the page.  I get anxious every time I approach that passage.  I wanted to share the internal workings of a PTSD-afflicted mind and, to accomplish this, these dark corners must be flushed with light. 


In your own work, which character are you most attached to and why?

Well this story is nonfiction but I still have my favourite heroes.  There were lots during that long war effort which comprised the heart of my army career.  Sergeant Andy Singh, though, stands apart for me. Singh represents the essential goodness of the Canadian soldier.  Wounded himself, struggling with PTSD, he was still the best senior NCO in my reserve battalion in 2011.  Even as he worked on recovery he looked for ways to help others come back from a psychological no man’s land — and so many still lie out there beyond the safety of the parapet.  Andy is a truly inspirational soldier; a beautiful human being.  



John Conrad

Posted by Dundurn Guest on August 18, 2015
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John Conrad

John Conrad has served thirty-four years in the Canadian Army. A bestselling author and colonel in the Army Reserve, he has authored a number of books and articles on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, including What the Thunder Said, a Military Book of the Month club selection in 2009. Colonel Conrad currently resides near Cooking Lake, Alberta.