The Shock and Awe of War
Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Robin Perry, one ordinary serviceman facing extraordinary circumstances. Nicknamed "Birdy" by his brothers and sisters in arms, Robin forges meaningful relationships despite the horror and pain all around him. Iraq in 2003 is the setting, during the initial days and weeks of the American-led coalition's fight to oust Saddam Hussein. The reader witnesses scenes from the war in Iraq through Birdy's eyes as he gradually becomes more disillusioned with the whole mission.
In discussing the conflict of the book, Sunrise Over Fallujah stands out because of the multi-layered nature of the struggle. Not only are there soldiers facing the literal, deadly conflict of warfare, there is the internal, doubt-riddled turmoil of the protagonist, Robin "Birdy" Perry. Birdy is part of a Civil Affairs unit, charged with generating goodwill between the Iraqi people and the victorious coalition military.
As the weeks pass, the mission of his unit becomes muddled. They are called away on a variety of "extracurricular" activities, engaging in more and more combat operations. Near the end of the book they are used as pawns to solidify the position of a Special Forces unit near Iran.
Birdy makes battlefield friends with several members of his unit. Jonesy, a blues man from Georgia, becomes Birdy's best friend. He develops a crush on Marla Kennedy, a streetwise girl from Long Island. Captain Coles, the unit's leader, keeps a cool head during crisis situations, a quality that Birdy admires.
Birdy and his comrades know that their friendships are tenuous, borne out of fear and isolation as much as anything else. They realize that back in the United States, they likely would not move in the same circles. However, the bonds they form are built on absolute trust and dedication.