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Surviving Iraq: Soldiers' Stories

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

In 2005 and 2006, Tripp (American history, adjunct, Holyoke Community Coll.) took down oral accounts from 30 U.S. military veterans, men and women from diverse races and cultural backgrounds who have returned from service in the Middle East. Most were stationed in Iraq or Kuwait and served in the enlisted ranks of all branches of the military, both active duty and reserve, and now attend classes at Holyoke Community College or the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In the transcribed stories, Tripp does not question the subjects but allows them to talk in open-ended fashion about what they felt was most important about their experience. While this approach allows veterans to express unrestricted and undirected opinions about the war and their contributions, the pieces can be dense and nonlinear. Fortunately, a time table of the war, maps, and a glossary of military terms help keep readers on track. Despite the lack of geographic diversity among the interview subjects, the reader can assume that they share commonalities with all American veterans as they readjust to civilian life, where their wartime struggles and experiences are often overlooked, underappreciated, and/or misunderstood. Suitable for larger public libraries.
—Jenny Seftas Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Life before, during and after Iraq, seen through the eyes of 30 soldiers deployed there. Tripp (American History/Holyoke Community Coll.) interviewed men and women from various backgrounds, political persuasions and ethnicities, and after a brief introduction she lets her subjects do the talking. Divided into six sections, each entry focused on a different aspect of the conflict, the narratives contain cogent insights and frank disclosures that testify to Tripp's skills as an interviewer. Allowing her subjects to vent their feelings on some of the key issues, she makes no judgment on the topics raised or the opinions offered. Soldiers hint at Iraq's nuclear capabilities and cast doubts on the UN inspectors who found that Saddam Hussein possessed no such weapons. The issue of women in the military prompts many comments. Most of the men express reservations, and five female soldiers offer their distinctive takes: "I didn't get along with many of the girls," declares one, while another says quietly, "there are physical differences that need to be recognized." Abu Ghraib and Jessica Lynch crop up often, and while no one interviewed here was directly involved in either incident, the soldiers have plenty to say about them. "It was people getting bored," remarks one young recruit of Abu Ghraib. "I know it sounds awful but there's a lot of people in the military who aren't that smart." Interviewees also provide interesting sidebars on the uses of modern technology in the war zone and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The common thread that binds Tripp's subjects, who range in age from teenage recruits to veterans in their 50s, is a feeling of pointlessness best summed up by MarineCorps Sergeant Arthur H.F. Schoenfeld: "[We] couldn't believe they were actually going to send us to war over that." The book builds to two profoundly moving final passages about a soldier killed in battle and another who committed suicide after his return home. Engrossing reading that benefits from its simple format.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566566933
  • Publisher: Interlink Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    Surviving Iraq: Soldiers¿ Stories by Elisa Forbes Tripp, should be required reading for anyone who wants to vote in the Presidential election this year. The book presents thirty stories told by thirty veterans of deployments to Iraq. Tripp invites the soldiers to ¿talk about those experiences that meant the most to them.¿ The result is a mixture of incidents mundane and the amazing, interpreted from a wide variety of perspectives that offers glimpses or hints of realities that are otherwise unknowable to those who have never served in the military in a time of war. That the reality of combat or wartime service is unknowable to those who haven¿t lived it is a frequent theme among these stories. Russell W. Anderson, Jr. First Sergeant, Army Reserve sums up the common feeling, ¿They [civilians] don¿t have a clue what you are going through, or what you went through.¿ 'p. 138' Much of what they went through boggles the reader¿s mind, and clearly leaves the warriors themselves working emotionally and intellectually to come to grips with their experiences. Lance Corporal Nathan Murphy, Marine Corps Reserve, reflecting on his decision not to shoot an apparently unarmed Iraqi male on the scene of an ambush reflects, ¿I felt a certain amount of guilt for not pulling the trigger. That¿s a messed up feeling - did I do my job?¿ 'p.68' On the other hand, Jeffrey Peddar, a Marine Corporal says, ¿You come back and you get such a sense of accomplishment, something for the rest of your life you can say you have done. ¿ You were there, you did it, you had just as much riding on the line as anyone else. You honorably served your country and you did your job.¿ 'p.132' The author¿s decision to simply let the soldiers tell their stories, rather than ask a series questions that might have given the accounts a consistent structure, is a great gift to the servicemen and women who tell their stories and to the book¿s readers. As a result the book makes no single point or lesson about the war in Iraq. Different readers will draw different conclusions, just as do the thirty individuals telling the stories. The book presents a picture that is unimaginable, ambiguous, multivalent, and to that extent, honors reality. As the father of a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Infantry, I think every military family or anyone that loves someone in the armed services will want to read Surviving Iraq: Soldiers¿ Stories.

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