By the time he had reached middle age, Max Cleland thought he had nothing to live for. Vietnam had left him a triple amputee. He had lost his seat in the U.S. Senate, and in the grip of depression he had lost his fiancée, too. But instead of giving up, Cleland discovered that he has what it takes to survive: the heart of a patriot.
Doctors did not give Cleland much hope when he returned from Vietnam, but he overcame his despair through his bonds with other wounded soldiers. Against all odds, he realized his dream of becoming a Senator. But after being smeared as unpatriotic in a reelection campaign, a long-dormant case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sent him back to Walter Reed Hospital. Surrounded by the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, Cleland again found the faith and endurance to regain control of his life.
In a gut-wrenching memoir that is free of bitterness but frank about the costs of being a soldier, Max Cleland describes with love the ties America’s soldiers forge with one another, along with the disillusionment many of them experience when they come home. Heart of a Patriot is a story about the joy of serving the country you love, no matter the cost—and how to recover from the deepest wounds of war.
Cleland's memoir details his remarkable journey from smalltown Georgia to Vietnam to a U.S. Senate seat, his trajectory serving as scaffolding for a withering critique of the Bush administration's handling of September 11. "America sends the flower of its youth abroad to fight its wars," he writes, describing losing both legs and one arm during his tour in Vietnam. From his friendship with fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter to a meeting with the young governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, Cleland's life seems inextricably bound to the nation he has served. As such, the he and the nation share crises of confidence: both fall into bitter disillusionment over the Vietnam War, culture wars and political infighting, and Cleland is candid about his periods of depression and the counseling that renewed his faith in himself and his country. Concluding with a meditation on his frustration with the Iraq War during which he helped to create, and later resigned from in protest, the 9/11 Commission Cleland's life seems to once again be attuned to the national mood. Photos.