REVIEW: Fly Safe: Letters from the Gulf War and Reflections From Back Home by Vicki Cody
It is August 1990, and Iraq has just invaded Kuwait, setting off a chain reaction of events leading up to the first Gulf War. Vicki Cody’s husband, the commander of an elite Apache helicopter battalion, is deployed to Saudi Arabia—and for the next nine months they have to rely on written letters in order to stay connected.
From Vicki’s narrative and journal entries, the reader gets a very realistic glimpse of what it is like for the spouses and families back home during a war, in particular what it was like at a time when most people did not own a personal computer and there was no Internet—no iPhones, no texting, no tweeting, no Facetime. Her writing also illuminates the roller coaster of stress, loneliness, sleepless nights, humor, joys, and, eventually, resilience, that make up her life while her husband is away. Meanwhile, Dick’s letters to her give the reader a front row seat to the unfolding of history, the adrenaline rush of flying helicopters in combat, his commitment to his country, and his devotion to his family back home. Together, these three components weave a clear, insightful, and intimate story of love and its power to sustain us.
When this book was offered to DA reviewers, I read the blurb and thought it sounded interesting. It also took me back over 30 years to when all this was happening as the world watched the conflict unfolding live on CNN. I also knew an Army Reservist colleague who was over there and he came back with some stories to tell. Anyway, I wanted to know what it’s really like for spouses dealing with separations and reunions compared to the romance novel version.
Just one thing before we get started. Vicki Cody’s husband was the commander of the Apache helicopter battalion and whenever I read Commander Cody, I couldn’t help but think of the 1970s novelty song “Hot Rod Lincoln” sung by “Commander Cody.” Sorry, I had to get that in. Now back to the review.
As wife of LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) Cody, Mrs. Cody had not only her own home stuff to do and children to look after as a temporary single mother but also had to be available to help the spouses and families of his men. One thing that came through loud and clear is the tremendous effort she and the other wives put into looking after each other and the support group families. Late in the book when the battalion is coming home, it becomes clear that she was the one to widen the circle of who was included in this group to bring in the grandparents, fiancees, and other important people in the lives of the battalion’s officers and enlisted personnel and keep them abreast of the news she was getting as well as offering assistance.
But then Vicki Cody had had fifteen years by then to get used to long separations from her husband. However he had never been in combat and she faced eight months of worry and stress for his safety. A time before email, DMs, twitter, FB, and smartphones (wow, I remember that well) lead to letters being the main link between Vicki and Dick – along with the occasional short phone call (often interrupted). Reading Dick’s letters, I can see that this marriage is what romance novel relationships aspire to be. When Vicki Cody says she and her husband are soulmates, I believe it. No, she admits that they have their issues and like all military families must work through what comes after the “honeymoon phase” that occurs once separations are over. Yet, what they have seems to be rock solid.
Vicki Cody is amazingly, and sometimes painfully, honest. She’s also a fantastic supporter of her husband, the Army, and the job they did then. This is a fascinating glimpse of military family life and one woman’s strength. B
Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Jayne. It sounds like a fascinating look at lives about which I have little knowledge.
@Kareni: One of the sad things about it is that Dick had written to Vicki that he hoped his actions would help bring peace to the region and that he wanted for his sons (who were 11 and 13 at the time) not to have to come back and fight the war again. By the mid 2000s, both of them had followed their father’s footsteps and were flying Apache helicopters for the Army, both were stationed in Iraq, and Vicki was now getting letters from them.
@Jayne, that is indeed poignant.