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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Battle Scars: Real war stories from the front lines

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

Some firefights and bomb blasts never make the news or the history books, but they’re still incidents that changed the lives of those involved. In each episode, host and former soldier Thom Tran talks to fellow veterans of our recent wars. We hear from a badly burned vet who became a TV star; a medic who says God answered his prayers on the battlefield; and one of the few women soldiers to take an enemy life in action. Thom also shares his memories of fighting in Iraq, where a sniper's bullet came within an inch of killing him. Sometimes raw, often funny, but always arresting.

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:

Any episode, but do listen to them all--it was short-lived, but all the episodes are worth a listen




Young veteran Thom Tran

Sound/production quality:

Very good

Rating/age suitability:

High school and up (Careful: all episodes are labeled Explicit for language and some descriptions of combat)

Approximate length of episodes:

30 minutes

Curricular ties:

This could tie in nicely to any high school history class to help contextualize what it's like to be in combat. There is some language and frank discussions of violence, so it's probably best for older teens.

Similar recommended pods:

None that I'm aware of

Podcast Librarian’s Review:

This is one of several podcasts that makes me sad that Panoply closed its content division. This was a short-lived but great podcast that I just recently discovered. Thom Tran is a veteran of the US Army and now a stand-up comedian (check out his troupe, GIs of Comedy). In each 30ish-minute episode, he interviews another veteran about a specific incident during their service. Thom is a great interviewer and injects dark humor at times (which seems to be something those in the armed services do often). He also manages to contribute his own experiences from his service in the conversations in a way that doesn’t steal focus but instead works as a type of commiseration, and maybe even therapeutic release for both him and the guest. Something I really love about this podcast is the diversity represented, including several women and people of color/varying ethnicities. The production quality is fantastic and professional, and I love the haunting, dramatic string-heavy intro music. Thom sometimes gets serious in a monologue at the end when he addresses others who have served (and experienced the horror of war), which is not the most interesting part of the episode to me—but I also realize that that part is not intended for me. He’s speaking to others to have actually experienced combat. This is a really well-done podcast that ended too soon—I would have liked to hear more stories like these. There are only 10 episodes, and they’re all great—so do yourself a favor, and binge it.

ETA: Thom now co-hosts Sex, Jokes, & Rock n' Roll, which is a more comedy-focused pod. I haven’t listened yet but am planning to check it out!

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