In addition to the many outstanding books UNC Press has published on Civil War battles, World War II military tactics, Cold War strategy, war heroes, and other military history, we have also brought to print stories of veterans sometimes left out of traditional American military narratives. In honor of all those who serve our country, here are three books that work to get to the heart of soldiers’ varied experiences.

In The Warrior Image: Soldiers in American Culture from the Second World War to the Vietnam Era, Andrew J. Huebner explores how journalists and artists began to reveal American soldiers not just as one-dimensional figures of bravery and valor, but as multi-dimensional human beings who suffered, feared, and were often harmed in the line of duty. He examines film, literature, television, and other media to show how images of the citizen soldier shifted from sentimentality to realism. The book was a Nota Bene selection of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“From The Best Years of Our Lives to Coming Home, Huebner’s lively and revealing study will challenge many glib assumptions about the differences between the ‘greatest generation’ of World War II and the baby boomers of the 1960s.”–Christian Appy, author of Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

In The Marines of Montford Point: America’s First Black Marines, Melton A. McLaurin introduces readers to the African American men who integrated the last all-white branch of the U.S. military. Drawing on interviews with 60 veterans who received basic training at Camp Montford Point, the black Marine base adjacent to Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, North Carolina, between 1942 and 1949, McLaurin relates their reasons for enlisting; their arrival at Montford Point and the training they received there; their lives in a segregated military and in the Jim Crow South; their experiences of combat and service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; and their legacy.

The interviews that led to McLaurin’s book also led to a documentary film of the same name, narrated by Louis Gossett Jr. Tonight in Raleigh, African American veterans of World War II will be honored by American Legion Post 157.

With Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, Steve Estes collects the stories of gay and lesbian soldiers serving from World War II to the Iraq War. In their own words, these veterans relate their experiences as men and women who simply did their duty and served their country in the face of homophobia, prejudice, and enemy fire.

“Whether one believes the military should lift its ban on open confession of homosexuality or not, it is hard to argue with Estes that ‘at the very least, this volume documents courage that should not be forgotten.’ Estes’s work is a welcome addition to the debate over homosexuals in the military and an appreciable addition to an all-too-elided aspect of military history.”–Military Review