While extremely read-able, this is not an easy story to decide to read. I may never have gotten around to reading it myself if I hadn’t met and chatted for just a couple of minutes with the author earlier this year. Missing out on this man’s story would have been a real shame, too. Why? Because as much as reviewers are correct that this book provides a front row seat on a tour through urban combat, an important audience is the average civilian. The book highlights the choices and sacrifices of someone who serves in our armed forces and how those choices might be viewed by his family, colleagues, battle-buddies, neighbors, the American public, and his God.
I’d read excerpts of SSG David Bellavia’s book online last year. One of the milblogs had linked to it, I’m sure, though I don’t remember which. I do remember the description of him and his guys walking neck-deep in a sewage trench. That made an impression. I’d also read at least one article that he wrote when he returned to Iraq in 2006 to do some reporting as a civilian.
I encourage you to read David’s book. But I also encourage you to follow links to some of the video of interviews with David that can be found online. (HT: Dawn Patrol)
Why? Because I think his book is that much more meaningful when you’ve seen him looking like a regular guy. No uniform, no helmet, no gun. Just the guy who coaches his son’s soccer team, but a guy who is also trying to talk to Americans about war from a warrior’s perspective. Specifically, the Iraq War and the Long War and as a veteran of the same.
Perhaps the best recommendation is to see if you can catch David at one of the stops along the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour so that you can say hi and chat with him for a moment yourself. Why? Because I think you’ll walk away with the same sense that I did: this is a guy that you’d invite to your house for dinner and who’d have you rolling with laughter. This is a guy who you’d be pleased to have coaching your kids’ pee-wee soccer team, though apparently some weren’t. Those who miss seeing the guy behind the uniform, the man behind the war stories, the husband and father behind the warrior, are in my opinion quite simply missing the message in his book. And it’s a message that civilians like you and me need to understand. That’s easier I think when your first impression and images of David are of him as a civilian.
Again, why? Because the images that his book will conjure in your mind are powerful, grim, scary, and horrific. David is among those who have looked our fanatical and murderous enemy in the eye and realized that there are and will continue to be times when it is truly “kill or be killed” and that we should not think less of him for having shouldered that task for a time.
And I just realized that I’d marked a quote in David’s book that gets to the heart of what I hope you’ll see:
“These men look like average guys. On November 12, I saw the greatness of their spirits. They rose to the challenge and they fought selflessly for one another. Despite the terror of those long hours trapped on that building, I have never felt closer to a group of human beings. We stood together, and we shined.”Order your copy here.