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Surviving Iraq
Soldiers' Stories
Elise Forbes Tripp

6" x 9" • 274 pages
ISBN 9781566566933 • paperback • $18.00

"This fascinating collection of testimonies underscores the universality of all war. This is a ‘bottom-up' celebration of the trials and terrors of so-called ordinary soldiers brought to that most terrible and transcendent of all moments-combat. What emerges is a shocking, moving, and utterly heroic portrait of young men and women in impossible situations."
--Ken Burns

More Reviews »

The Iraq war is being fought by an all-volunteer army recruited from working-class America, ordinary citizens in uniform. Volunteers sign up with the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy as active duty, Reserve or National Guard, serving when as young as 18 and as old as 60. They enlist for a number of reasons: to pay for college, to earn extra income, to have an adventure, to defeat the enemy, to defend their country, to please their families and to find themselves.

These men and women are the stars of Tripp's powerfully moving book about our war and our warriors in Iraq. Surviving Iraq: Soldiers' Stories is the result of a close collaboration between the author and thirty veterans who volunteered to tell their stories of the invasion, occupation, and ongoing insurgency in Iraq. Readers learn what the soldiers' lives were like in and out of combat in Iraq and Kuwait and how they view the war. To help the reader follow the narratives, Tripp provides a chronology, maps, and a glossary of military terms.

These thirty in-depth narratives belong to the national dialogue on the war and also to a people's history of the war. We find unvarnished views of the war's conduct and its rationales, as well as of its commander in chief and his administration. Soldiers' individual experiences range from the harrowing to the hilarious-all the indelible human detail of war. As fighters, soldiers must face urban warfare against an unidentifiable enemy; as women they must guard against assault from their male comrades; as military personnel they live on bases that have modern movie theaters, gyms, the Internet and phones, Burger Kings and Pizza Huts, all in the midst of a dangerous conflict. Almost a half a million soldiers have served in the four years of this war, but each story is unique, telling us what it is like to serve in war, and to survive it.

Elise Forbes Tripp is a graduate of Harvard, and has a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. A former international relations counselor for UN affairs at the World Bank, she is an adjunct professor of American history at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.

Media Reviews

"Surviving Iraq is a valuable, indeed indispensable, addition to the literature on the war, especially because it bypasses pretentious analysis and gives us the voices of the soldiers."
--Howard Zinn

"Engrossing reading that benefits from its simple format...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 Marine Corps 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."
-- Kirkus Reviews

“[A] collection of one-on-one interviews with 30 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines—25 men and five women—who tell their stories from recruitment to deployment and after. If only for its documentation, Surviving Iraq has merit. In addition, the book has occasional moments of grace.”
—Marine Corps Times, October 13, 2008

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