Home > NewsRelease > Balancing Hope and Heartbreak: Les Carroll's Perspective on War
Balancing Hope and Heartbreak: Les Carroll's Perspective on War
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Welcome to BookPleasures.com,where we're excited to introduce an author whose life experiences have uniquely shaped his literary creations. 

Les Carroll, a captivating storyteller, has recently released his latest book titled This Troubled Ground.

This poignant work reflects his remarkable journey through life, colored by his upbringing in South Carolina and a distinguished military career.

Hailing from the heart of South Carolina, Les's  roots have had a profound influence on his writing. 

His formative years were spent in a state known for its rich history and complex social dynamics, elements that undoubtedly contribute to the depth of his storytelling. 

However, it was his extensive service in the Air Force and Air National Guard that truly forged the foundation for The Troubled Ground.

With an impressive twenty-eight years of military service, Les's  dedication to duty took him on two tours in Afghanistan and a pivotal assignment at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base. 

It's from these experiences that This Troubled Ground draws its essence. Through his writing, Les explores the profound impact of war, service, and the human condition, providing readers with a rare insight into the struggles and triumphs faced on the path to understanding.

Beyond his written words, Les  is a multi-faceted artist, renowned for his work as both a military and civilian journalist. 

His expertise as an award-winning journalist and acclaimed documentary filmmaker is evident in his storytelling prowess, which captures the raw emotions of the human experience. 

Notably, his documentary Bringing the Fallen Home, which aired nationally in 2014, exemplifies his ability to touch hearts and minds through visual storytelling.

Les's  literary journey extends beyond This Troubled Ground. Having written and published three books in the mid-1990s, his dedication to his craft has been a lifelong endeavor. 

The depth of his experiences, from military service to journalism and film making, infuses each page of his works with authenticity and a profound sense of purpose.

Norm: Good day Les and thanks for taking part in our interview.

In This Troubled Ground, you draw from your own experiences in the Air Force and your tours in Afghanistan. How did these experiences shape your perspective on the war and influence the creation of this novel?

Les: On my first Afghanistan deployment, I kept a detailed personal journal because I wanted to find the words to describe my experience for my family. 

I just couldn't believe some places and events I ended up in.

Of course, I did not know then that I would next take the Dover assignment and then go to Afghanistan a second time. I was never on an active battlefield, but I saw a lot of war from many different perspectives.

Norm: The novel highlights the emotional toll of war on both service members and their families.

Could you share your thoughts on how you approached capturing the complex emotions and struggles of those directly affected by the conflict?

Les: Six months after I came home from my first Afghanistan, I volunteered for the assignment to the Air Force Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base.

I was familiar with that mission, but again, I had no way of anticipating what that experience would be like. I stood twenty feet away from family members for a hundred dignified transfers.

I knew I would never understand the devastating experience they were going through, but I knew what it was like to be right beside them and lead a team whose only purpose was to honor the fallen and support their families.

About halfway through the Dover assignment, I called up my film producer friend Cliff Springs and told them I had a great documentary idea for us.

Norm: The Dover Air Force Base ceremonies play a significant role in the book. Could you discuss conveying the solemnity and heartbreak of these ceremonies through your writing?

Les: The dignified transfer is returning the remains of fallen US Service members to American soil. It's one of the most solemn responsibilities I ever had in my Air Force career.

I wrote about those experiences in memoir style too, but several specific events also led me to some interesting fictional story ideas too.

When I went to Afghanistan the second time, I realized I was in the unique position to bridge the experiences at Dover with the experiences in Afghanistan.

Norm: The book follows an Air Force officer and a mother coping with the loss of her son in Afghanistan. How did you balance the dual perspectives of these characters, and what challenges did you face in intertwining their stories?

Les: I had one interaction with a mother on the Dover ramp I remember most vividly. There were no words spoken. She just looked at me and I sensed she was just asking me what her son had died for?

I knew that if she could, that mother would travel to Afghanistan and find those answers for herself. So, I created a fictional story that took her there. That's how the mom's and the main character's lives cross paths again.

The book is part memoir and part fictional story, and the most difficult challenge of making that work. 

Norm: The novel has been endorsed by individuals who have personal connections to the military and the Afghanistan War. How do you feel about the response from those who have experienced these events firsthand?

Les: Yeah, the endorsements were really meaningful to me. I respect those people tremendously. One endorser was a Gold Star mother who told me her biggest fear was that her son's service and sacrifice would eventually be forgotten.

I promised her that would not happen, and I would do everything I could to make sure that didn't happen.

We gave her the opportunity to honor her son in our documentary film Bringing the Fallen Home. And she's one of several people who make up the composite character Laura Paige Hatfield.

Norm: Throughout the book, you explore the impact of war on individuals' search for meaning. Could you elaborate on how your characters' journeys mirror the broader societal quest to find purpose amid conflict?

Les: I've interviewed dozens of Gold Star families. They just want to know that their loved one died for something. 

It's harder for them to have that hope after the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan, but they still cling to that hope that the world is just a little better because of their loved one's service.

Norm: As a military journalist and filmmaker, you've documented the experiences of service members and their families. How did your background in these fields contribute to your ability to tell such an authentic and compelling narrative in the novel?

Les: In my military career, I was almost always in a support role. I'm okay with that. I worked for some excellent commanders and leaders, and I hope they that my support helped them more successful.

I produced a great documentary on the history of the South Carolina Air National Guard that captured the storied history of our unit.

Maybe that was one of my most enduring contributions. I knew early in my career that I would not be a fighter pilot or a high-level commander.

But, I found myself in some high-level support roles and that brought the experiences that helped me write this novel. 

Norm: The novel balances moments of tragedy with occasional upliftment. How did you approach maintaining this balance and providing a nuanced perspective on the realities of war?

Les: It's a heartbreaking story. But, I hope people who read the story find the same hope that the characters in the book are desperately seeking. War affects many people, but those people still represent a tiny percentage of the American population.

I think I just wanted to show how this relatively small group of people can do much for so many.

Norm: The novel portrays the Afghanistan War uniquely, offering readers an intimate glimpse into the lives of those involved. 

What challenges did you face in bringing these stories to light, and what do you hope readers will gain from engaging with this narrative? 

Les: Afghanistan will be a part of me forever. I spent one year of my life there. There were and are so many more aspects of the war than enemies fighting on the battlefield.

I really got a good look at many of those aspects. Ultimately, I want people to know the enormous cost of war, in blood and treasure, to use a common cliché.  

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and This Troubled Ground?

Les: MY WEBSITE provides an excellent overview of the book and my career. Bringing the Fallen Home is the most intimate and detailed portrayal of how this country serves and supports America's fallen and their families. 

Norm: As we wrap up this interview,  the novel delves into whether the war in Afghanistan was worth the cost.

What message or insight do you hope readers will take away from the book regarding this complex and debated issue?

Les: There's no simple answer to the question. Was it worth it? If there's no hope that Afghanistan was "worth it," then families who lost loved ones there have no hope.

I have to believe that someday Afghanistan will be a more stable country, and that young Afghans–especially girls and women –will be happy, whatever that means to them.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your endeavors



 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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