My Hero My Son, The true story of Sgt. Andrew J. Baddick, an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, by Joseph Baddick, BookSurge/CreateSpace, 2010, 277pp.
John 15:13—Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Douay-Rheims Bible)
One would expect a book by a father about his late son, both of whom served in the 82nd Airborne at different times, would be highly emotional, but Joe Baddick avoids over-the-top language and lets you decide when to sigh and when to cry. Joe writes in an original and detached style, almost as if he’s telling someone else’s story sitting in his living room or at a local bar. There are no cliff-hanger endings. The story is told simply and sequentially.
Joe gives readers some background on the Pennsylvania Coal Region so we can better understand him and A.J. (as he’s known) and then he takes us through A.J.’s childhood (which includes Joe's divorce and remarriage). Joe and I both grew up in Tamaqua, although I don’t know him. It turns out that enlisting in the Army did for A.J. what it did for a lot of us in the Region—it gave us a free ticket out of town and taught us how to focus on something.
Joe reproduces the official report on A.J.’s death, but also includes comments from other soldiers who served with him. There are just some things official reports don’t tell you that you’re glad to learn.
“Writing this book,” Joe says at the end, “has been a journey for me, back to happier times, interesting times, fun times, and sad times. In talking to other families [who lost their lives in war], I found out that our sons led very similar lives. They were loving, humorous, dedicated, professional, and seemed to be cut from the same special cloth that made them who they were, a breed apart from all others.”
In addition to all of the personal information, Joe describes two private meetings that families of soldiers killed in the war had with President Bush. Joe reports that at the first one when Joe’s wife started to tear up, the president put his arm around her and said, “Let’s cry together.” Joe calls Bush “the real article” and includes two photos, one of Bush holding Joe’s granddaughter, Andi Rose.
The title of this essay is meant to convey two meanings. One, of course, is A.J.’s sacrifice. The other is Joe’s love for his son. No greater love.
The Week in Pictures: April 21, 2017 - Photos by The New York Times and by photographers from around the world.
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