Until “Chasing Ghosts,” I never understood to what extent our soldiers had to go just to get through the ordeal of a war. Lies seem to be more common than truths and sets the mood for frustration. Back home, we claim to support the troops. Do we really know what goes on and how we can be supportive? After reading “Chasing Ghosts,” I think we have a great deal to learn.
This soldier’s bird’s eye view tells us what we don’t see on the nightly news – the real tragedies and the honest patriotism; the deceit and real emotions. The pages are filled with an accounting of down right absurdities, gut-wrenching scenes we couldn’t even imagine, and a mission that falls just inches short of complete failure.
We may mouth the words in hopes of supporting the young men and women we call “our troops,” but do we really know what we are truly supporting? Do we ever see what really is happening in Iraq? Until “Chasing Ghosts,” I didn’t know about the cover-ups, the genuine fear, and the “ghosts” that will stay with these troops forever. Their hands on their weapons at all times for fear that someone will turn on them; the dead bodies with no identification; and the flying by the seat of your BDUs – right decision, you live – wrong decision, it ends there.
Having no experience on how to tell a crowd (that could become violent) that a holy man had not survived surgery was left to Paul. “No one taught me how to deal with this shit in Officer Candidate School.” However, the doctors were afraid that they may be killed simply because they failed to save the cleric. When the crowd wailed, beat themselves, and one man knocked himself out because of the news, the soldiers found it humorous – they had become hardened to such displays of grief. This was one more death in the land of death and destruction.
The one-upness – “every newly arrived unit was pissed off that it had missed the fighting on the way up, and wanted to make up for lost time.” Rieckhoff writes, “The NCO in charge told me that these dead Iraqis shot at them from a rooftop. The Americans shot back. The Iraqis generally didn’t do too well in these situations. We could see at night. And we had magic boots.”
The oh-God incidents – “I looked ahead and my stomach dropped. A command Humvee was burning in the middle of the street. I was sure it was our unit’s vehicle. It was just blown to hell, sparking and twisted. Judging by the degree of devastation, I was pretty sure we had just suffered our unit’s first combat loss. It would have been very difficult to survive that. There is no more sickening feeling in the world than seeing your guys hit. For an American soldier in Iraq, seeing an American Humvee damaged is like watching your home burn to the ground and not knowing if your family made it out alive or not.”
“If you really want to support the troops, listen to them. Vote for them. A future president of the United States is among them somewhere. George Bush wasn’t fucking right. But now we have the means to fix what he broke. We fought for American in Iraq. It is time for the next fight – the fight for America back home. Bring it on,” ends the book.
The troops coming home deserve our support – read “Chasing Ghosts” in order to understand what they have been through and listen to them when they speak. They have been there and done it – the t-shirt is yet to be.
The above review was contributed by:Sue Vogan: Sue is a Writer & Author of NCO-No Compassion Observed: To read more of Sue's reviews Click Here
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