Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
Written by the same author who wrote Sold, this look into the life of an army private brings the Iraq War to life for those of us who mostly learn about it from the TV news. The story takes place over just a few weeks in Private Matt Duffy’s tour in Iraq. We join him as he wakes up in a hospital in the Green Zone, where the barricaded walls provide relative safety for the military headquarters situated there. At first, Matt has no idea what has happened to him, but slowly memories start coming back. The one that haunts him is the mental image of a young boy they called Ali, being shot. “The child was lifted into the air, paddling his arms like a swimmer. He looked surprised, then confused, then absolutely terrified as he soared through the turquoise sky, higher and higher, until all Matt could see were the soles of his shoes.”
This was an orphan child, who lived with his sister in a drainage pipe. When the squad had free time, they would organize soccer games for the children, and this kid was an awesome forward. Ali loved candy, especially Skittles. How could I have killed him, Matt thought to himself. But the young soldier, who can’t even drink legally yet, has TBI, traumatic brain injury, causing him to have memory gaps, especially around this terrifying incident. Slowly the truth begins to become clear to Matt, with the help of the best pal Justin and the rest of his squad once he is deemed able to return to the front. Even though the medics have found him healthy enough to send back to his squad, he’s not sure he can fire his M16 if the need arises.
This book takes the reader into the heart of the Iraq War, and it’s not a pretty sight. McCormick did extensive research to make sure her story is true-to-life, and her book rings absolutely true. She makes no judgement on the war itself, although the soldiers ponder if they’re really helping the Iraqi people. I highly recommend this title to all readers; it’s a short, but not always easy read.