Local Author Chronicles Experiences in Medical Services in Iraq in New Book

John Donnelly’s new book, Center of Mercy, recounts his experiences in Iraq.

    Orinda Rotary Club President John Donnelly, Ph.D., has led many missions in life. Donnelly is president of Global Healing, a Berkeley nonprofit that works to improve standards of medical care in low resource countries. He has more than 25 years experience in vaccine research and development. He served as interim director of the Vaccine Development Global Program at a leading NGO specializing in global health innovation.
    A retired U.S. Army Reserve Brigadier General, Donnelly began his military career in 1984 when he was commissioned as First Lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps. In 1987, he served as Commander of the 379th Medical Detachment which was mobilized for Operation Desert Shield and deployed to Saudi Arabia in December 1990.
    He served for 30 years as an officer, with deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq and has written a book about his Iraq experiences Center of Mercy: Caring for the Wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The proceeds from its sales will benefit the USO.
    Donnelly says the experience of writing the book stirred up a lot of emotions, both happy and sad. “When I was writing, I had the feeling of actually being back there again. Sometimes, it took me a while to complete the journey back to the present day after a writing session.”
    He had never shared some of the stories with anyone before. “It felt good to be able to shape them into a coherent narrative,” he adds.
    In writing the book, Donnelley enjoyed recognizing the contributions of his fellow soldiers. “Everyone there worked hard, every day, to take care of our soldiers and reduce the pain of war. Sometimes they got official recognition, but a lot of their work just faded into the background.”
    After his yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, Donnelly found himself amazed at the perceptions people had of the war and wanted to write about the experience. The book was “something that nobody, not even I, really wanted to read, and I abandoned that effort very quickly.”
    Donnelly did not return to his story until 10 years later when he realized his own recollections were fading. Donnelly’s hope is that his book demonstrates the challenges and rewards of life in a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, while documenting the efforts of some of the 3,600 people in the 2nd Medical Brigade and subordinate units who cared for the injured in the Iraqi War.
    While researching his book, Donnelly discovered different perspectives others in his unit had.  Some experiences were new to even him. “I feel like I have told a story that nobody would have heard about otherwise.”
    Center of Mercy: Caring for the Wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom is available in both paperback and kindle form on Amazon.

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