May 7, 2008

A Soldier's Promise

I'm not one for audio books, but the husband couldn't resist this one when we were browsing through the discount book section. The audio book, A Soldier's Promise, chronicles the struggles of our troops in Iraq, particularly those of First Sergeant Daniel Hendrix. I probably would never have picked up this book off the shelf because I tend to find these stories drawn out and boring in parts. However, given the way this story was read, I may have liked to read the actual book because the writing style is not obtuse or too militaristic. We were listening to this audio book on and off for about three weeks in the car as we drove into work together, so it took us longer than it would have taken me to read it on my own, but he enjoyed it. This book is set just after the fall of Saddam.

***Spoiler Alert***

The beginning of the book starts off before Hendrix leaves his wife for duty and after his unit, Dragon Company, completes specialized training. Once in Iraq, there are a series of ambushes and other events that occur, but things start to turn around for the American troops when informants turn up at their checkpoint offering information about insurgents in exchange for money or other items. The troops come to expect any Iraqis to seek monetary gain for their information, until Jamil enters the checkpoint demanding to be arrested.

The book does not completely focus on just the American troops, and I think this is what caught my attention the most. The chapters alternate between the troops and Jamil's family. His father is a leader of one of the insurgency movements in Husaybah, Iraq. His father and his neighbor are blood thirsty and eager to battle American troops. His father wants his son to join the insurgency and stage raids and use other guerrilla tactics against the Americans. Jamil is not interested in this life and eventually sees the Americans as the only way to escape his abusive father.

At the checkpoint, he is taken into custody and begins informing the Americans about his father and the local insurgency's weapons and plans. The troops, after much debate, agree to stage a raid, ultimately capturing Jamil's father and several others. The problem is that his father's neighbor, Sayed (excuse the spelling here), is on the loose and even more blood thirsty than Jamil's father.

Jamil, who garners the nickname Steve-O, becomes a great asset to Dragon Company and the marines that take their place, but in the process a 14-year-old boy grows up too fast and loses his family to the insurgency and Iraq's battle with itself. Hendrix promises that he will one day get the boy out of Iraq into the safety of the United States.

***End Spoiler***

I was captivated by the images in this audio book and was captivated by the underlying message that as humans we are all striving toward similar goals. We all want to be loved for who we are, we all want to be independent of other's rule and oppression, and we are all capable of seeing past prejudice to find the humanity within. We also all have the capacity to do the right thing when the time is right. I would recommend this audio book for long road trips or just commuting to and from work.


Anna said...

Interesting. The flipping between the American soldier and the Iraqi insurgent family sounds intriguing.