Soldiers' stories: Book about Iraq war paints intimate portrait of military experience

David Kerley, Jordyn Phelps, and Alexandra Dukakis
Power Players

Power Players

“We shot dogs.”

Those are the first words of Iraq war veteran Phil Klay's new book, “Redeployment,” that gives readers a glimpse into the chaotic and complicated existence that U.S. armed forces confronted during the Iraq war.

"In that story, I had a friend, Mike Green, who was at the second battle of Fallujah, who talked about seeing … stray dogs in Fallujah who were eating corpses in the streets,” said Klay, whose book is fictional but derived from real-life stories that he and his comrades lived in Iraq.

“[The] second battle of Fallujah was intense urban warfare, and so they shot some of the dogs to try and stop them from doing that and that story is about a guy who's been through that experience and then comes back home to his dog that he loves who's not doing so well and it's about that transition,” Klay told “Power Players.”

When the Marine in the story decides with his wife that it’s time to put down their ailing dog, he decides to shoot the dog himself rather than take him to the vet for the procedure.

“He's not one to let other people do the hard tasks for him,” Klay said of the character. “In a broader sense, it's part of what you sign up for. You sign up to do a really hard, dangerous job so that so your friends and family back home in America don't have to.”

Klay’s book is a collection of short stories, which he said allowed him to deal with the many divergent perspectives and experiences of the men and women who served in Iraq.

“I have two friends who are named Matt. They're both scout cavalry. They both patrolled the same towns. But one was there in 2006 [and] one was there in 2008, and their experiences couldn't have been more different,” he said. “I think through fiction you get to kind of break apart what that means and what it did to people to go through that and then come home.”

Klay also discussed his own transition back to civilian life. He described the experience as “strange.”

“You come back to an America that is not fully paying attention, and so you're part of a community that is at war and where these things are life and death; and then you go to New York and you walk down Madison Avenue and you think, 'We're not at war,'” he said. “And you still feel that even though you have friends who are going back. They're going overseas four, five, six times. Sometimes very bad things are happening to them.”

For more of the interview with Klay, including what he hopes readers take away from the book, check out this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC News' Tom Thornton, Wayne Boyd, and Barry Haywood contributed to this episode.