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November 23, 2010

Operation Thriller: We Met the Real Heroes

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

Douglas Preston
On Tour with the USO
Operation Thriller

The USO had never before in its history sent authors on tour. We were guinea pigs of a sort. I had my doubts it would work. Would the troops in Iraq enjoy meeting a tweedy, linguacious group of authors instead of, say, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Jessica Simpson, or Kid Rock? And we couldn’t bring our books—the military had more important things to schlep around a war zone than crates of paperbacks.

Instead of going on stage before thousands, the USO wisely planned our tour to be different, friendlier, more personal. We mingled with the troops in small groups, at their places of work and recreation—the motor pool, fire stations, drone flight lines, bomb disposal units, mess halls and USO centers—to chat, thank them for their service, and answer their questions.

We were welcomed with tremendous warmth. I was surprised at how many had a strong interest in writing. The troops were full of questions on how to get published, how to find an agent and editor, and what the writing process was like. We urged them to write down their own stories, if not for publication, as least for their families, children, and grandchildren. “You are living history,” we said, “Write it down!” I spoke of my own grandfather who, at the age of 18, went off to drive an ambulance in France during World War I and kept a journal of his experiences. That journal is the most treasured heirloom in my family.

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Operation Thriller: There and Back Again

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

by James Rollins

When I got the call asking if I’d be willing to participate in a tour of authors to the Persian Gulf, I immediately said yes.  Who wouldn’t want to give something back to the troops, even in this small way?  But after hanging up the phone, I was immediately plagued with questions.  Would anyone be interested in a group of thriller writers?  What exactly would be involved in the tour? I initially didn’t have much concern for safety issues.  I knew the USO paraded countless groups through various regions of conflict without mishap.

But then niggling worries began to arise, specifically following a checkpoint list we all received:

(1) Bring sunscreen

(2) Pack a camp towel

(3) Check with your doctor about vaccines and malaria preventatives

All well and good—until that list ended with a final ominous item:  Make sure your will is in order. Upon reading that, the concern among my family members (who were already uneasy) ratcheted up, but I reassured them that this was simply a precaution, nothing more.  But inwardly it raised a doubt:  what the heck am I getting myself into?

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Operation Thriller: The Images Remain Vivid

Posted: 04:43 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

By Steve Berry

The images remain vivid. The young translator from Sudan, now a U.S. citizen living in Minnesota; the one star general who taught at a small college; the corpsman who told me his mother had been a big fan of my work, but she’d died recently; the husbands and wives serving simultaneously in differing parts of the world, their children being temporarily raised by grandparents or siblings.

And the injured.

They were the most inspiring of all.

Lying in their beds, several with nearly half of their bodies gone, yet nothing voiced except optimism.   I visited 30 at Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval Hospitals.  I was told the first time you come for them.  The second time you return for yourself.

And I believe it.

I saw heroes.

Men who’d proudly performed their duty, now facing an unimaginable future with unflinching courage.   There was the corporal, minus his legs, who wanted to be a teacher; the medic, pierced by shrapnel, who might go on to medical school; the Marine with no lower extremities who still wants to repair cars.  All of them were young, barely into their twenties, their lives altered forever.

And one other thing.

Only one gunshot wound among them.

Bombs were their enemy.  IEDs.  Improvised explosive devices set in the sand, lying in wait for victims to draw close.  “A damn coward’s weapon,” one of them said.   I asked about regrets.  None had any.  Their wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers were the same.   Only positive thoughts.

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Dolly Parton on Miley Cyrus & Taylor Swift!

Posted: 12:42 PM ET

WATCH LARRY KING'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH DOLLY PARTON TONIGHT!

Filed under: Dolly Parton


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November 20, 2010

ICYMI: George H. W. Bush & Barbara Bush!

Posted: 02:03 PM ET
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November 19, 2010

Russell Brand Talks Katy Perry & Addiction!

Posted: 11:20 AM ET
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In Case You Missed It: VP Joe Biden

Posted: 11:13 AM ET
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