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Bookworm Buddies by Becky

Bookworm Buddies by Becky

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Book cover: 'Craig & Fred' by Craig Grossi

TITLE: "Craig & Fred"

AUTHOR: Craig Grossi

Craig’s story takes place in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine and he shares the strong bond he had with a stray dog that he met on the battle ground there in 2010. Craig’s job was in human intelligence to learn about the Taliban by conversing with the villagers.

His gear and rucksack weighed 70 pounds or more and he had it with him at all times. How was the Taliban affecting the people’s lives? What did the people call themselves? How did people earn a living? It was between Taliban attacks when Craig met Fred for the first time. This dog was alone, not in packs like most dogs. Often “pet” dogs were used for fighting. Craig gave Fred a beef jerky stick and rubbed his matted fur that was stiff and coarse. He knew if he was caught with a dog that it would be euthanized. So what does Craig do? How did the other men take to Fred? How did Fred react to getting ticks and bloodsuckers pulled from his fur? He strutted around the compound like a show dog and laid near any injured man as a comfort. Where did Fred come from?

The Taliban used kids to place IEDs and they were body armor for the men. Night patrols were very dangerous and many canals were crossed. The Taliban prohibited any form of education so Asif, a teacher taught at night in a makeshift schoolhouse. He and his brother were captured and one of them was killed. Which one? Did that end the classes? What happened when the Afghan commander kicked at Fred? Why did he do it? Anyone looking after Fred was putting their career on the line! Who cared for Fred when Craig was injured and in the hospital in Leatherneck? For how long? How serious was this? Did it mean his work in Sangin was done? Craig grieved over the loss of two buddies and was not able to attend those funerals.

Coming home the biggest challenge was the sense of isolation and feeling alone. How did Craig handle that? Did the weekend post deployment retreat help? Who helped arrange transportation to get Fred back to the states? How was Craig’s sister and father helpful? Craig and his buddy Josh took Fred along on their travels to California and other western states for eight weeks. Josh had a prosthetic leg that needed to be recharged some times. During their travels they visited former military friends and developed new friendships, too. Eventually Josh suffered from blood clots as a result from long car rides. How many tours of duty did Craig and Josh share?

Making a new life after Afghanistan was a process for all military men. Why did it take Craig almost three years before going to the VA center? Did he have PTS? Craig went back to school and earned a degree in liberal studies and in international affairs. He and a long time friend Nora were in a relationship by then. Did they marry? Craig organized annual memorial events to honor his buddy Justin who had served three tours in Afghanistan. Craig’s new life continued to open new ventures for him and Fred. Craig rescued Fred once, but Fred rescued Craig time and time again. Craig served eight years as a Marine and earned the Purple Heart.Craig and Fred’s story reminds us that love and perseverance can transform our lives.

Becky Stakston is an avid reader from Westby.

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