Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir

Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir

by Michael Donnelly, Denise Donnelly
     
 

When Major Michael Donnelly was instructing his U.S. Air Force student pilots, he used to tell them three things: Timing is everything; it's nice to be lucky; and there is no justice. Highly decorated fighter pilot, proud young patriot, loyal friend with a mischievous sense of humor, loving husband and father of two, he could not have imagined the tragic

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Overview

When Major Michael Donnelly was instructing his U.S. Air Force student pilots, he used to tell them three things: Timing is everything; it's nice to be lucky; and there is no justice. Highly decorated fighter pilot, proud young patriot, loyal friend with a mischievous sense of humor, loving husband and father of two, he could not have imagined the tragic meaning those words would assume just a few years after his tour of duty in Desert Storm. In 1996 Major Donnelly was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, at the unusually young age of 35; the onset of this illness marked the beginning of a kind of torture beyond the scope of even the most rigorous military survival training. Betrayed by his body, eventually paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, he experienced another betrayal perhaps even more difficult to comprehend—betrayal by his country. For despite the fact that over 110,000 Desert Storm veterans are sick, many dying of mysterious cancers and neurological diseases, including more than ten times the normal incidence of ALS—and despite all evidence pointing to U.S. troops having been dosed by low levels of Iraqi nerve agents and exposed to chemical weapons' fallout—the Pentagon adamantly denies any connection between their illnesses and their service in the Gulf War. Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir, Michael Donnelly's unforgettable story, is his courageous attempt to unearth the truth and force an acknowledgment of that truth by the government he and his fellow veterans defended with their lives.

Flying 44 fighter jet combat missions in a war fought on an all-or-nothing scale was thrilling for Michael Donnelly. When the war was won, he and his country rejoiced in the knowledge that, unlike in Vietnam, America had gotten it right in the Persian Gulf. Less than a decade later, the world is learning what veterans and their families have known since Desert Storm—we did not get it right at all. Saddam Hussein is still terrorizing a large portion of the globe. Moreover, we did not learn the lesson of Agent Orange which the Department of Defense denied for decades was the cause of early deaths and birth defects among Vietnam veterans and their families. Yet, thanks largely to the testimony of the author before the House of Representatives in 1997, a first step has been taken toward justice for the tens of thousands of Desert Storm veterans who are suffering virtually in isolation, many without any medical or disability benefits. Major Donnelly believes the truth about Gulf War Illnesses will be uncovered by studies funded in the recently passed Omnibus Appropriations bill, as well as through stories like his own, and he fervently hopes that America can, at last, get it right.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[I]n this remarkable, gripping book, [Donnelly] has embarked on one last bombing run--a devastating attack against the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs Department, and other repositories of dangerous federal health policies….Falcon's Cry is also a heart-wrenching examination of what it's like to have your body wither away while your mind remains lively and sharp…. The book is a frightening, inspiring tale of bravery and persistence."

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Gannett News Service

"Donnelly has become a powerful spokesman for his fellow veterans and has helped persuade Washington lawmakers to look further into the illnesses that vets believe were caused by exposure to chemical weapons and Iraqi nerve agents. Told with the help of Donnelly's sister, this gripping account could do much to unseat Pentagon assertions that 'Gulf War Syndrome' is a myth constructed by stressed-out veterans."

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Publishers Weekly

"A moving memoir of the author's experiences as an air force pilot throughout the 1980s and the Persian Gulf War, that also confronts his seeming postwar diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and his subsequent realization that he did not have ALS, but rather, 'Gulf War Syndrome.' While lacking the polish of an experienced writer, Donnelly makes up for this with an impressive degree of candor….The sections of Falcon's Cry dealing with the war are dramatic and unlikely to disappoint anyone who watched the 'CNN War' on a TV set….Donnelly's tale of his personal sacrifices of health, mobility, and career quite naturally overshadow the victory in the Gulf. An honest, deeply felt look at the human cost of war."

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Kirkus Reviews

"Donnelly…has done a remarkable job of documenting the onset and causes of his fatal disease, while telling about his life….But it is Donnelly's description of exposure to dangerous chemicals that gives Falcon's Cry its punch….with [this book] Donnelly has done his comrades and his country an invaluable service."

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Journal Inquirer

"This is a sad story. And a true one….In this limpid, often riveting memoir, Donnelly and his sister Denise chronicle his brilliant military career, his rapid demise, and, most of all, the heartbreaking indifference with which his and other Gulf War veterans' suffering was met….While unnerving, the writing is always measured, rich with facts, and devoid of self-indulgence. Michael Donnelly is both an officer and a gentleman."

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Boston Magazine

"Collaborating with his sister, the team reports with clarity and passion on behalf of veterans who have insufficient medical or disability benefits."

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WE Magazine

"The Donnellys do a wonderful job with this book. Read the official memoirs and histories of the Gulf War, then read Falcon's Cry, the real history of the Gulf War."

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Dead Trees Review

"Five stars (exceptional)."

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Today's Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1996 Michael Donnelly, a highly decorated Air Force fighter pilot, consulted his flight surgeon about the extreme fatigue and erratic heart rhythms that he'd been noticing, and asked in passing if they might be connected to his service in the Gulf War. While the military doctor immediately dismissed Donnelly's suggestion, saying "there is no conclusive evidence linking service in the Gulf to any illness," he ordered additional tests. Eventually, Donnelly was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative disorder that soon left him confined to a wheelchair and struggling to swallow. The hard-charging former fighter was outraged not only by his condition, but also by the military establishment's steadfast denial of Gulf War syndrome, even when faced with the claims of 110,000 veterans who say that they became ill after serving in Desert Storm. Not one to take disability lightly, Donnelly set out to tackle both his disease and his intransigent government. There is no cure for ALS, but Donnelly has become a powerful spokesman for his fellow veterans and has helped persuade Washington lawmakers to look further into the illnesses that vets believe were caused by exposure to chemical weapons and Iraqi nerve agents. Told with the help of Donnelly's sister, this gripping account could do much to unseat Pentagon assertions that "Gulf War Syndrome" is a myth constructed by stressed-out veterans. (Nov.)
Booknews
The author, a combat veteran and victim of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, tells of his attempts to unearth the truth about connections between the disease and exposure to nerve agents and chemical warfare in the Gulf War, and of his efforts to force an acknowledgment of that truth by the government he and his fellow veterans defended. Includes b&w photos. No index. Distributed by Greenwood. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A moving memoir of the author's experiences as an air force pilot throughout the 1980s and the Persian Gulf War, that also confronts his seeming postwar diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and his subsequent realization that he did not have ALS, but rather, "Gulf War syndrome."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780313361043
Publisher:
ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date:
08/27/1998
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

MAJOR MICHAEL DONNELLY retired from the U.S. Air Force in October 1996 after 15 years of active duty.

DENISE DONNELLY, a professional writer and the sister of Major Donnelly, has been a fiction editor at the Missouri Review and has taught English and creative writing at Tufts University and the University of Missouri.

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