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johnnywalker_cvr

Co-author: Jim DeFelice
Running title: Code Name: Johnny Walker – The extraordinary story of the Iraqi who risked everything to fight with the U.S. Navy Seals.

I remember when the 9/11 attacks happened. It was moment of pain, anguish and anger, and as many were ready to lash out at all things Muslim, there were those voices of reason calling for understanding. There were those voices that supported those that practiced Islam peacefully. The problem, at the time, was that it seemed that many of these voices were non-Muslim and many were asking where are the real Muslims that would stand and defend their faith from the wanks that hijacked it. Little did some of us know that several years after the attacks some were doing just that … in their actions. And many may paid the ultimate price.
Johnny Walker is one such voice. The is name is also pseudonym that is used to hide the Iraqi’s real name in order to protect his family that currently reside in the US or relatives that have remained in Iraq from reprisals from insurgent mujahedeen or jihadists. It is truly a humbling story seen through the eyes of an Iraqi soldier. Johnny came from an impoverished background and in his world, Iraqis that didn’t do well in school soon found a place in the Iraqi army. An army that was filled with antiquated equipment and training that was just as laughable … but for most, was a way to a make a decent living. Still, Johnny took certain aspects of it very seriously. We are fondly introduced to Soheila, Johnny’s first love that became his wife and mother of his four children. It is possibly the purest romantic thing one could have ever read in this present day. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and Girl falls in love with each other. But Girl parents promises her hand in marriage to another bloke. Boy fights for the girl he truly loves. Parents eventually see their folly and give consent to Boy and Girl to be married. And all this time the relationship was unconsummated since … Muslim families are very strict about that stuff. Like I said purely romantic … almost Shakespearean. Almost. We get to see his struggles to earn a living during “peace” time (hey, they were living under Saddam’s rule) prior to the war beyond his post-military days. And then of course, the war happens and work becomes more scarce. Many Iraqis found jobs working as interpreters (or terps as they were called by military units) for US forces. It was only a matter of time before destiny found Johnny working for the US forces as an interpreter. The interesting thing is that this started as job for him to earn a living to support his family. There weren’t any political or religious motivation. It is during his time running ops with US forces he began to learn that most of the insurgents were foreigners (some trained and armed by Iran) that were in Iraq spreading much chaos and destruction had was claiming the lives of many innocent Muslim victims of certain faith. Apparently there are Shia and Sunni Muslims, one’s a bit more rigid in their interpretation of the Koran and the other is a bit more moderate. And according to jihadist tossers (to quote The Highlander), there can only be One. Of course, this angers Johnny greatly and it can be felt in his writing throughout the book, for he felt that not only was his country (Iraq) being hijacked, but also his faith. And so teaming up with the Americans was his way to restoring his country and preserving his faith and its followers. He eventually proved more effective than interpreter for he had this uncanny way of spotting and locating jihadi suspects that were being sought with such efficiency that it would make Hannibal Lector and most FBI profilers green with envy. Trust me you’ve got read about his exploits. It got the point that most SEAL teams going into Iraq always sought out his help. His admiration and loyalty to the SEALs was not lost to many that served with him. To quote the late Chris Kyle (rest in peace, my good man): “Johnny Walker is the only Iraqi I’d trust with a gun”.
It was only a matter of time before the insurgents learned about his helping the Americans and pretty soon there was bounty on his head. Things began to get more dicey when his family were getting death threats and had to move from a relatively “safe” Mosul to a dangerous Baghdad. And the kicker was that some of these threats came in the form of “warnings” from other relatives. Gives new meaning to the word “nuclear family”. For most the book it becomes a harrowing read as we follow Walker through some of the most hair-raising raids all up to the point of him getting his family safely out of Iraq into the US. Yes, apparently there was an established program setup for Iraqis, that aided Americans, to immigrate to the US. The SEALs, ever so valiant and noble, not wanting to leave their brother behind had worked hard to speed up the process at the most critical moment in Walker’s family life. It was touching and awe-inspiring about the camaraderie between Johnny and the SEALs. Johnny Walker maybe born Iraqi but at the core he is a true American hero with an extraordinary story that needs to be told. And to think it all started with him just wanting to earn a living for his family. Still think your job is really bad or tough on you? Guess again mates.
A brilliant read about a simple man and Muslim who decided in his actions to fight against those that would ravage his country of birth and faith, and ended up becoming an American hero. It is courage and honour defined, and as you read this book you’ll find yourself rooting for this bloke.

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It is Memorial Day so I felt that this would be an appropriate book review. Back in the late 80s into the 90s there was a great show on the telly called Tour of Duty. You remember those days, when networks actually took the time to show great shows instead of the heavily scripted and possibly rigged bollocks that is now called “reality tv” … talk about a big, buggering oxymoron. Well, every Saturday night many of us ran home to curl up in front of the telly to watch Tour of Duty, a series that centered around a group of characters that were serving in the armed forces deployed in Vietnam. The show was gritty, though not so gory, and it probably mirrored what really happened to many servicemen and women that served in Viet Nam.

I came across Fallen Angels in the YA (young adult) stacks and I was drawn to the illustration the cover. I had to satiate my curiosity. And I was not disappointed. Fallen Angels is centered around Ritchie Perry, a young black man that is recently deployed into the scary mess that is Viet Nam. Enlisted in the hope of earning money to send back to his mother and brother, he hopes that a busted knee would exclude him from active duty. Unfortunately, someone did not get the memo and Ritchie got sent to a fiery vacation point in South East Asia.  As you read the book you come across his fears, apprehensions as encounters bumbling bureaucracy, bouts of racism, spurts of cowardice and insanity, the hint of a love that will never be (not going to spoil that one for you, mates), an unnerving amount of body bags, and an appreciation for God Almighty. It would be a far stretch to say that this was as good as sitting next to the blokes in Quonset huts during the this moment time, but I’ve got a really vivid imagination and I’ve seen tons of Viet Nam based war movies. Though I must safely and honestly add that, despite all of that, I would never be able to truly grasp what those brave souls that served truly went through over there. I would be foolish to think otherwise. Still it is delightful pieces such as Fallen Angels that give us a slight glimpse into what our servicemen and women endured. All the more reason to be more respectful and grateful of their service. Fallen Angels is a quick read, and though it is centered around the somberness of war, there is mixture of everything … even humour  (watch out for bloke named Peewee). Interesting fact about this book: it was on the ALA list of banned books for it was challenged in some schools, in 1990, for profane language. And if you meet a vet, be kind enough to say thanks or lend them an ear as they tell their stories. Thanks mates, for your service.

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