Shooting Ghosts by Thomas J. Brennan
A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War

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Ultimately, the authors effectively reveal how they moved beyond the “fog of war” and forged a new life after the trauma. A courageous breaking of the code of silence to seek mental health for veterans and the war-scarred.


"A majestic book." --Bessel van der Kolk, MD, author of The Body Keeps the Score

A unique joint memoir by a U.S. Marine and a conflict photographer whose unlikely friendship helped both heal their war-wounded bodies and souls

War tears people apart, but it can also bring them together. Through the unpredictability of war and its aftermath, a decorated Marine sergeant and a world-trotting war photographer became friends, their bond forged as they patrolled together through the dusty alleyways of Helmand province and camped side by side in the desert. It deepened after Sergeant T. J. Brennan was injured during a Taliban ambush, and both returned home. Brennan began to suffer from the effects of his injury and from the fallout of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But war correspondents experience similar rates of posttraumatic stress as combat veterans. The causes can be different, but guilt plays a prominent role in both. For Brennan, it’s the things he’s done, or didn’t do, that haunt him. Finbarr O’Reilly’s conscience is nagged by the task of photographing people at their most vulnerable while being able to do little to help, and his survival guilt as colleagues die on the job. Their friendship offered them both a shot at redemption.  

As we enter the fifteenth year of continuous war, it is increasingly urgent not just to document the experiences of the battlefield but also to probe the reverberations that last long after combatants and civilians have returned home, and to understand the many faces trauma takes. Shooting Ghosts looks at the horrors of war directly, but then turns to a journey that draws on our growing understanding of what recovery takes. Their story, told in alternating first-person narratives, is about the things they saw and did, the ways they have been affected, and how they have navigated the psychological aftershocks of war and wrestled with reforming their own identities and moral centers. While war never really ends for those who’ve lived through it, this book charts the ways two survivors have found to calm the ghosts and reclaim a measure of peace.

About Thomas J. Brennan

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Thomas James Brennan, recipient of the Purple Heart, was a sergeant in the Marine Corps until medically retired in 2012. He served in Iraq during the Battle of Fallujah and was a squad leader in Afghanistan’s Helmand province with the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. Since 2012, he has been a regular contributor to The New York Times At War blog. Brennan was the military affairs reporter at The Daily News from early 2013 through mid-2014. He has a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia, and is the founder of, a nonprofit newsroom online dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Finbarr O’Reilly is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has spent the past decade working in Africa and the Middle East, and has won the World Press Photo of the Year, the highest individual honor in news photography. He was profiled in Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (Peabody Award winner, Oscar finalist) and has had writing fellowships at Harvard, Yale and Columbia. He was the Reuters senior photographer for Israel and the Palestinian Territories in 2014.
Author Residence: London (O’Reilly); Richlands NC (Brennan)
Author Hometown: Swansea UK (O’Reilly); Boston (Brennan) Author Image 1 Author Image 2
Published August 22, 2017 by Viking. 350 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, War, Professional & Technical, History. Non-fiction
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on Jun 05 2017

Ultimately, the authors effectively reveal how they moved beyond the “fog of war” and forged a new life after the trauma. A courageous breaking of the code of silence to seek mental health for veterans and the war-scarred.

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