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Cloudpuncher by Tony McNally

By Reviewed by Remy Benoit

Our lives are made up of all kinds of relationships.
Each type of relationship implies some kind of mutual responsibility.

One of those relationships is between those we send to serve, and we who send them. I usually refer to this particular relationship as a covenant: if you will be there for us, we will be there for you.


Watching Men Burn.

A “Cloudpuncher” is a Rapier Missile designed to be launched from land to take enemy planes out of the sky.

In Tony McNally’s case, the Rapier with which he did battle brought down two enemy planes in the Falklands War that his country waged with Argentina. However, on the day that enemy planes came swooping down on two of his country’s ships, the Rapier that Tony and his mates engaged to fire, gave only the sound of a “woodpecker tapping on a tree,’ which meant that it had blown a fuse and was inoperative. He watched the carnage that followed.

A young man dreams of being a soldier. The dream is not always what was expected when it comes to reality. Mack tells the story of a young man gone to soldiering, gone to war, taking pride in his service; faced with helplessness when the ships were attacked; blaming himself for the carnage for a long time to come. Yet it takes awhile for things like this to sink in; there is a period of denial, a period of non-acceptance, a mental trauma that puts on hold for awhile that which eventually comes out; that eventually becomes recognized as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

From the Falklands, Mack was sent to Northern Ireland where he and his mates learned of the extent that hatred for fellow beings can reach.

After the war, the bombing of the Galahad, the conditions existing in Northern Ireland, with the return to the normalcy of everyday civilian life Mack found himself besieged with nightmares, extreme depression, lost of employment, lost of a marriage, all common symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At first unaware that the terrible depression was caused by PTSD, Mack was tortured with feelings of helplessness, angst, and thoughts of suicide. Like other governments, his did not recognize the PTSD, battle fatigue, soldier’s heart, shell shock, by whatever name it is, and has been called, Mack, and his fellow Falkland’s and Northern Ireland Veteran, Edward Denmark, author of Not for Queen and Country, went to Downing Street to turn in their medals as protest about non-recognition, and refusal to help when help was so needed.

Cloudpuncher is written as it was lived capturing raw emotions, great pain, terrible frustration, and feelings of betrayal by those who should have been there for those they sent into battle. It is not that Mack did not serve with a soldier’s pride but that those at home chose not to accept their responsibility, their part of the covenant. It is not a new story; it is not a new malady. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome has existed throughout history in war and battle survivors, as well as from many other sources.

We no longer treat soldiers with electric shock, or sometimes execution, as was done after the War to End All Wars. Sometimes governments refuse to treat them at all, or even recognize that the condition exists.

Mack, like others who have found themselves in this position, was told to try to write it out, write himself home. Cloudpuncher is the result of this writing. He shares a story directly, openly, with great candor, holding nothing back. His is a story that is not uncommon, but yet a story, like many thousand others, that needs to become common knowledge, faced up to up close and personal, for all who go to war, live through war, are potential candidates.

Mack poses an interesting question, a question that has been asked by many Veterans in many countries:
How can you be a soldier one second and a civilian the next and carry on as if nothing has happened?

He also makes an interesting observation, one that demands that we contemplate its true meaning:
It’s only many years after the war that I have read books about the battles and realized the real savagery of modern warfare. I had no comprehension of the loss of life that was occurring a few miles away.

Both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the “real savagery of modern warfare” are things with which we need to deal.

High praise to Mack for his openness, for sharing his private hell, so that others may learn, may understand, may begin, finally, to deal with the realities of.

Small Wars.

Forgotten Soldier.

Pharaoh Press.

Downing Street Protest.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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