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Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq

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  • Posted February 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Stress and Consequences

    Michael Anthony has published his journal recorded during his year in Iraq serving as a medic in the midst of the worse than bizarre war being played out around him. The book is a journal written with fine graphics dividing the entries by hours in the days in the weeks in the months of his tour of duty - all bound by the barbed wire that so aptly describes the imprisonment felt by those serving in a position for a given period of time to perform despite the belief in the cause. This writing technique serves Anthony well: he is freed from the literary confines of connecting incidents, minutes/hours/days, into a flowing story - the entries do that for him.

    What we learn from this young writer (of very great promise!) is not so much about the particular war in Iraq, but instead about what happens in every war in which civilians serve in the medical capacity. The flow of information is more about the interaction of the various members who comprise the OR team - the docs, the medics, the techs, the nurses, the true military personnel who command the actions away from the OR table - than it is about the war itself. Anthony introduces the friends he makes, the enemies he encounters, the pecking order of those in charge, the 'illegal activities' that are commonplace, the addictions, the chronic lack of sleep, and that most difficult hurdles of all - the agony of seeing young bodies both American and Iraqi torn by shrapnel and commonplace explosions. We feel Anthony's grief and disillusionment while we are sifting through his own addiction to sleeping pills, his only way to rest from the trauma and the at times exceeding boredom of the day.

    So what Michael Anthony has achieved in MASS CASUALTIES is an insider's (literally) account of being a medic in a war that grows ever more unpopular with each day. It is timely and it is well written. If the reader expects to discover significant information about the actual war strategies and atmosphere on the battlefield of Iraq, then this is not the book to read. But for a fine account of how the days pass while imprisoned by a war game far from home, Anthony captures that beautifully.

    Grady Harp

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