By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
On November 1, 2008, Morgan James Publishing of New York released a book entitled, A Ballad For Baghdad: An Ex-Hippie Chick Vietnam War Protester’s Three Years In Iraq. It was an Amazon best-seller, and it launched a writing career — mine. If you are new to the area or to Athens Now, you may not know that I experienced the adventure of a lifetime by preparing to go to Baghdad in November of 2003, flying to Houston in May of 2004 for three weeks of training, and landing in Baghdad in June of 2004. I returned to the States in June of 2007, and remain forever changed by the experience of living in a combat zone amongst U.S. soldiers, coalition soldiers, and Iraqis. I would also do it all over again; it was just that good.
I had no intention of writing about my adventures; that idea came from a Juice Plus customer of mine who happens to be one fine, accomplished and experienced editor. Her name is Mary Jo Tate, and she simply encouraged me to send home emails about what was happening. I ended up having a following before followings were a thing. I had a slew of people encouraging me to go for it, that is, write an actual book. My greatest cheerleader and investor was and is my husband, Steve, and I will be forever in his debt.
After Morgan James accepted my manuscript proposal, I set to work to make my deadline, and Mary Jo gave me permission to film the thing in my head, “shoot it” through my word processor, and together we would decide what to keep and what to pitch. That experience was one of the most exhilarating and exhausting of my life. I did what I did because I gave my word to the soldiers and the Iraqis that I would tell their stories; I just didn’t know how I was going to keep my word.
So, Ballad is the how, and I have a revived reason to make it about the now. Fifteen years and the resulting graying of my hair is a long time for revisionist history to get polished and put a creepy spin on pivotal things and times that might end up being the casualties of an ever-shrinking cultural attention span. Simply said, I was there, I saw what happened firsthand, and not on my watch is what happened getting twisted into some kind of political pretzel. There are soldiers who deserve to be soundly thanked in this holiday season and always for what they did for the Iraqis. There are kids who have no idea who Saddam Hussein was, and they need to. I had the bizarre experience of being within ten feet of the man on more than one occasion and came close to being able to attend his trial. More importantly, I listened to the stories of those who had been tortured by his goons, had gone on to build extraordinary lives of resilience and hope, and who returned to Iraq as interpreters to help set their fellow Iraqis free. Add to that the soldiers who fought for and wept over Iraqis, worshipped God in Saddam’s fishing lodge or the ballroom of Saddam’s birthday palace, played ping-pong fiercely and then showed me pictures of their families, and perhaps you will find something different that stirs you this Christmas and beyond.
In today’s All Things Soldier column, (which can be found on page 4) I will also revisit the topic of Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMDs, and hopefully set the record straight for those who might wonder if that was a hoax. I can assure you it was not.
Ballad is on the Right Side Radio website Recommended Reading list at www.rightsideradio.org. It can be purchased on Amazon and several other online stores. Autographed copies can also be purchased locally at the Alabama Veterans Museum, and part of the proceeds cheerfully go to the Museum.
Below are some things that have been said about the book by someone who took great risk during his military career to protect us, Lt. Colonel Buzz Patterson.
“Want to know the REAL story of the war in Iraq? …This is it! An intimate personal journey, well-researched commentary, and a passionate, cogent thoughtful set of stories-within-the-story of Operation Iraqi Freedom recorded by someone who lived there during the formative years of ’04 to ’07. The fact that I, a retired Air Force officer and pilot, am strongly endorsing the written work of a woman who once tried to shut down Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is delicious irony. Ali’s perspectives on the war are the same as my own, and we could not have come from more disparate backgrounds. I love this book!”
Lt. Col. Robert “Buzz” Patterson, USAF, (Ret.)
New York Times best-selling author of War Crimes, Dereliction of Duty, and Reckless Disregard
Get yours today, and Merry Christmas!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner