- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

HUDSON, Mass. (AP) - In his new book, local author Mike Walling recounts the war in Afghanistan, but many of the words in the book are not his own.

Through stories from veterans, Walling’s “Enduring Freedom Enduring Voices: U.S. Operations in Afghanistan” tells of what the war was like for those fighting it. Debuting last month, the book chronicles veteran voices, giving readers a perspective Walling said is not often heard.

Walling’s fifth book is an account of the nation’s operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. Flowing through the war chronologically, the book focuses not on the larger geopolitical motives, but instead on the people who lived it and fought daily.

“I give the context of what occurred, then put you on the ground with people who were there, in the helicopters or gunships, in the cockpits of the men flying close air support,” Walling said.

Walling, a former first class petty officer in the Coast Guard, said he hopes the book will contextualize the war.

“When you’re watching the news, reading the paper, you’re getting an ice cube off an iceberg of a story,” he said. “I try to put people on the ground, I want them to taste the dirt, feel the air, and feel what it’s like to all of a sudden get ambushed.”

Beyond what he wants, however, Walling said the book is about doing justice to those who serve in the military. Taking away political motives and showing those who have dedicated their lives to defending their country, Walling said, tells a different story of the war.

“No matter what people think of the war, they’ve always supported the troops,” he said. “I hope (readers will) get a better understanding of what these people went through on sometimes multiple tours.”

Walling said he got many never-before-told stories from military personnel while interviewing them at home and on bases in Afghanistan, simply because he was the first to ask. Many of the stories, he said, were heart-wrenching.

“It was ripping my soul out,” Walling said. “To understand, to a point, what they’ve gone through and what they have to live through for the rest of their lives is tough.”

Walling said he feels it’s his duty to record these stories since he has an outlet to do so. Though he said he doesn’t know if there’s something to learn from his book, there are truths that aren’t always recognized.

“There are a lot of people out there who risk their lives routinely for a whole bunch of other people who don’t have to or are unwilling to,” Walling said. “That’s what it amounts to.”

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