Time Magazine sent journalist Michael Weisskopf to Baghdad in the winter of 2003. He went to collect information so he could go home and write about the American soldier, because that's who Time planned to feature as its Person of the Year. It was a very big deal for Weisskopf to take this assignment. He himself was very excited to get it, even though his pre-teen son worried about his dad's safety in Iraq.
Sure enough, Skyler was right to be worred. One night, Weisskopf and Time photographer James Nachtwey went out on a patrol in a convoy that was searching for insurgents. Weisskopf and Nachtwey were in a humvee with two soldiers. It was dark. Suddenly, they turned into a big marketplace. Something flew into the vehicle. At first, Weisskopf thought it was a rock. But suddenly he knew they were all in grave danger. Seemingly without thinking, he stooped to pick up what was actually a hand grenade, which he went to throw back out. Suddenly, he was in grievous pain, his arm feeling like it was in fire, and then everything went dark.
When he awoke, his right hand was gone and he was being treated by a medic for a loss of blood. When he expressed regret to the nurse for what seemed to him to be an impulsive act, she talked back to him, pointing out that if he hadn't had the quickness of mind to act as he did, he and everyone else in his vehicle would have died.
Weisskopf received some treatment in Iraq but was quickly transferred to a military hospital in Germany and from there to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He was the first journalist known to have been treated there - and only because of intense lobbying by his friends and family and the intervention on the part of the Secretary of the Army.
The subtitle of this book is Among the Soldiers of Ward 57. This is because a huge amount of it has to do with the time he'll spend at Walter Reed. There he meets other amputees. Together they struggle to come to terms with their injuries and go through rehabilitation. Weisskopf himself tried for a time to use a myoelectric arm, but finally eschewed it in favor of a body-powered prosthetic device that ended in a hook, rather than a fake hand.
Today, Weisskopf has returned to what in many ways is a normal life. His relationship with his children has deepened, largely because they've had to help take care of him. He's gotten re-married, to a woman who forgave him for not telling her when they got involved that he had yet to actually sign the papers that would grant him a divorce from his first wife. And he's back to writing, thanks to voice-activated writing software. Sad to say, some of the injured soldiers he's met are having a much harder row to hoe.
This is a very interesting book. Weisskopf does a great job of talking about this war's wounded in a very matter-of-fact way, which does more to build sympathy for their plight than if he'd written a piece that dwelt more on the tragedy that is war.
This report prepared by Ann Gaines