We’re thrilled to have here today former Staff Sergeant Joseph Halderman from Jonathan Raab’s new military novel, Flight of the Blue Falcon. Joseph Halderman is a 28 year old veteran living in Denver, Colorado.
Thank you so much for this interview, Joseph. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
Well, Raab did a pretty good job capturing what it’s like to be a grunt and serving in a chewed-up unit. The book’s a quick read, and it covers about a year or more of our lives. There was a lot of stuff he had to cut out, so I’d point out that there’s a lot more to a deployment than can fit in a book. But overall, I feel like he got the important details right.
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
I just wish he had left out the parts where I was drinking too much… And sometimes I come across as a Grade-A asshole. Then again, I kinda was a Grade-A asshole sometimes, so I guess that’s alright.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
I’d say my flexibility. Being in the Army means the situation changes all the time, and you gotta be ready to go from zero to sixty in a flash. You’re never able to rest.
You’ll see this in the book, but sometimes I get an attitude problem. I can blow up or get snarky when I should just shut my mouth and drive on. I’m working on it with those headshrinkers at the VA.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
Who’s the most handsome dude out there? Preferably someone with big muscles. One of those guys.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
Yep, and I’m still with her. We moved to Denver after the deployment. She puts up with a lot of my crap. I couldn’t make it without her.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
I’d say the first time I show up. I’m not shown in the best light. It’s honest, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to read about yourself being a jerk or making bad decisions. But there’s good in there, too.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
Good question. I’d say LT Gracie. Him and I had a lot of differences, and there’s a few decisions he made that went the wrong way. But now that I’m home and the uniform is off, I can appreciate how tough he had it, and how he had a lot of pressure on him at the time. I should give him a ring and tell him that.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
That’s the thing – the ending is somewhat open-ended, because we’re still going through things. We’re still dealing with what happened in the desert. Us—and everybody else who served overseas. These problems and issues don’t just get resolved like some stupid movie. We’ll be dealing with this shit for the rest of our lives. I’m not trying to tell you a sap story or anything, and most people don’t want to hear that. They want to hear that veterans come home and things are all squared away and prim and proper. That’s bullshit. War isn’t neat and clean. It’s a goddamn mess, and it jacks people up, in ways big and small. I’m gonna be alright, sure. I’m a survivor. We all are. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still dealing with all this.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?
I’d tell him to move on to another character, another subject. You can only be in the headspace of war for so long before it makes you crazy. We all have to try to move on, best we can. He shouldn’t be one of those guys that rides his service for his whole writing career. War doesn’t go away, and it’ll always be there for guys like him and me, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about or think about or write about other things. But I think he already knows that.
Thank you for this interview, Joseph. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
Yeah. Yeah, I’m afraid you will. As long as we keep fighting wars, guys like me will always be around. I hope one day that isn’t the case—but I’m not holding my breath.
Title: Flight of the Blue Falcon
Genre: Fiction – Adult
Author: Jonathan Raab
Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.
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About the Book:
FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON
“Jonathan Raab is not only a genuine advocate for veteran causes, he is a preacher of their tales; both fiction and nonfiction. His writing will immerse you into a combat environment that parallels the imagination of those who have never had the pleasure.”
—Derek J. Porter, author of Conquering Mental Fatigues: PTSD & Hypervigilance Disorder
“Jonathan Raab uses his experience to illustrate the raw world of the common soldier. His masterful use of edgy humor and intellectual commentary creates a space for discussing the military culture.”
—Nate Brookshire, co-author, Hidden Wounds: A Soldiers Burden
In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.
Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.
Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.
Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.
Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.
Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.
FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.
This is a war story. This is their story.
Only the most unbelievable parts are true.
About the Author
Jonathan Raab is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he served as an infantryman assigned to a combat advisor team. He is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and an editor for the War Writers’ Campaign. His work has appeared in The New York Times’ At War Blog, CNN.com, the Military Success Network, Literati Presents, The Stars and Stripes, and many others. His second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, will be available in late 2015. He lives in the Denver metro area with his wife Jess and their dog, Egon.