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When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.
There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.
Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.
National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace.
her duffel—until she showed them how to use it to repair a leak in the tube of her gas mask. Matt tugged on the drawstring of his duffel bag. Stuffed inside were a couple pairs of clean underwear, a can of foot powder, his DVD player, along with the sixth season of South Park, his yearbook, a can of Pringles, and a packet of Skoal. At the bottom were his letters from Caroline folded inside a Ziploc bag, along with the picture he’d kept taped inside his helmet. He’d only been in the hospital for,
Matt back to his bed, practically carrying him the last few yards, then turned back the covers and laid him down with a gentleness that shocked Matt. “What did those MPs want with you?” Matt said as Francis was about to leave. Francis gazed out the window. “The truth?” he said, looking at some invisible point in the distance. “It’s like Jack Nicholson said. You can’t handle the truth.” MATT SAT IN BED FLIPPING THROUGH THE PAGES OF A BOOK of World Series trivia he’d found in the bathroom
through the air. Machine-gun fire erupted. Bits of plaster rained down from overhead. A dog, a mangy stray with a crooked tail, trotted across the street, oblivious to the battle around him. A single shot rang out. 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. Matt opened his eyes. All he could see
of his shoulder and Matt found himself trailing along behind them. He couldn’t be the one in trouble, he told himself, or they’d keep him firmly between them, constantly in their sights the way soldiers on patrol did when they took an Iraqi into custody. A moment later, they stepped inside what seemed like a large, ornate building, and Matt found himself barely able to see in the sudden dark. After his eyes adjusted, he saw that the halls were made of marble and the walls adorned with Arabic
happens when insurgents put their own people in harm’s way.” Matt nodded. Mentally, he reviewed the wording of the Rules of Engagement. Do not fire into civilian-populated areas or buildings unless the enemy is using them for military purposes or if necessary for your self-defense. He also repeated to himself what Sergeant Benson had told them as they were about to enter Iraq. He’d made them all pause at the border and turn off their engines for a little pep talk. “You are going to get shot