Al Moreno is 60 and wants to join the Marines. He’s haunted by his father’s defection from the armed forces during the second world war; he wants the Marines to send him to Iraq so he can redress this painful event in his family’s life.

Goffard tells the story of Moreno’s lifelong quest to resolve his guilt-by-association. It’s a challenging story to tell, and a fascinating character study. Here’s what Goffard says about producing the piece:

Structurally, this was one of the toughest stories I’ve written. The challenge was to weave an enormous amount of backstory covering more than 60 years—Big Al’s desertion, his homecoming and disintegration, plus Little Al’s life and trials—into a narrative that maintained some forward motion and suspense.

The solution was to build the story around Moreno’s trip to the recruiter, with extended flashbacks. The first draft was twice as long, about 200 inches, with sections on the other Moreno brothers’ Vietnam experiences, on Moreno’s troubles with the LAPD, on myriad family dynamics, but it became clear that we had to pick our tale, and it had to be one the structure could sustain. Editors Bill Lobdell and Roger Smith pushed me to focus on the story’s essence, which is about a guy and his dad and the tortured complexities of their relationship.

Read “A War Only He Can End,” by Christopher Goffard

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