N. Nathan Bethea, “A Funeral Conversation”

Nathan Bethea served in Afghanistan as an infantry officer.

The story: Told from the viewpoint of a US Army lieutenant in Afghanistan, the story illustrates how the officer and his men learned to hate and abuse Afghans.

Characters: Alan Longo, an Army lieutenant (first-person narrator). Sharif, an Afghan interpreter, an Afghan elder.

Themes: Soldier motivation, enlisted-officer relations, war’s violence, attitudes toward enemy and foreign non-combatants

Discussion Questions:

  1. The story appears to be a deposition related to a military investigation–why is this important?
  2. Does the narrator regret striking and abusing the Afghan elder? If he doesn’t, should he?
  3. How does the narrator balance the duties of military leaders to “accomplish missions AND take care of their troops”?

Find “A Funeral Conversation” here:

The Road Ahead


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