Book Review: Fly Safe
Brianna and Ariel review and discuss the book Fly Safe: Letters from the Gulf War and Reflections from Back Home, by Vicki Cody. If you order the book through our affiliate links, you're helping to keep Busy Nest News going at no extra cost to you. Thanks.
Fly Safe: Letters from the Gulf War and Reflections from Back Home, by Vicki Cody
Ariel and I recently received copies of Fly Safe: Letters from the Gulf War and Reflections from Back Home, by Vicki Cody. We’ve read a lot of books by military spouses, from awesome to cringeworthy, so we were cautiously interested to see what this one would hold.
Fly Safe is Cody’s memoir from the Gulf War, with details filled in by her journal entries and letters between her and her husband while he was deployed. She describes life on an Army base (post) before, during, and after the conflict. During the deployment, she covers what her husband was doing (the details of which she only learned of afterward) and the challenges he faced, as well as the challenges she dealt with on the homefront.
Through compelling prose and excellent storytelling, Vicki Cody has captured the unique time in our history that was the Gulf War. In the early 1990’s there were barely answering machines, let alone smartphones (or even cell phones) or personal computers with high-speed internet. So while our war machine was cutting edge, even futuristic, our service members’ options for communicating with family members back home was limited to snail mail and exorbitant international phone calls (to a landline; hopefully the person they were calling was at home and could hear the phone ring).
Not only is Fly Safe a valuable and entrancing chronicle of the Gulf War, as seen from the homefront, it’s also an accurate illustration of military family life. Cody shares her methods of coping with being separated from her husband, the ways she tried to help other families, and the realities of what it’s like to communicate and co-parent with a partner who’s on the other side of the world.
Everyone in the news has been talking about our recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, but we still have people stationed in Iraq. And we’ve been there for so long that the United States’ first foray into the Middle East is in danger of being forgotten. With Fly Safe, Vicki Cody has boldly taken on the mantle of historian and preserved an important part of military history.
Brianna: I was admittedly a bit gushing in my praise for Vicki’s latest book, Fly Safe. But whenever I had the chance to sit and read it, I really didn’t want to put it down! Did you have a similar experience?
Ariel: Absolutely! To me, Fly Safe reads like a novel. As someone who was alive but not aware of the conflict in the gulf, at times I forgot that I was reading a memoir. At the same time, as a former military spouse Fly Safe made me feel so seen. It felt familiar. It was instantly recognizable. It felt like the truth.
Brianna: It did feel relatable. We don’t like to recommend books about military life that are overly sugarcoated or euphemistic. Vicki’s attitude is so positive that Fly Safe was sometimes heading in that direction, but just as I was feeling skeptical she would share a story about a challenging time or some unpleasant thoughts, and I was able to buy in again.
So we both enjoyed Fly Safe. Let’s talk about who we would or would not recommend it to.
Ariel: Momentarily, I was tempted to simply write, “I would recommend it to everyone!” But then I remembered my own personal experience of reading Fly Safe while I was geographically separated from my husband. On days when I was feeling especially hard on myself, it was way too easy to find myself pulled into comparison. In a battle of positivity, Vicki is going to win!
Brianna: I totally agree! This is not a good book for a new or especially vulnerable military spouse (unless you’re reading it in a group setting with people who can help with context). It’s important to remember that at the time this book takes place, she and her husband were 15 years into their marriage. While this was their first combat deployment, it was far from their first separation.
Vicki opens the book with the story of a training mishap their unit dealt with. I appreciated this frame on the deployment because it shows that danger is a constant part of active duty life, even when you’re “safe” in the States. Realities like that, which Vicki details without unnecessary drama, are why I would recommend this to civilians who wonder about what military life is like.
Ariel: Yes! In fact, I gifted Fly Safe to my parents and they absolutely loved it. One for that very reason - that it gave them a glimpse into our life - but also because it chronicled a period of their younger life they had forgotten about. At the time that Desert Shield/Storm took place, my father was trading on the mercantile exchange. What he remembers is how volatile the oil market was because that was his likelihood. He loved looking back at the events through the eyes of someone who was boots on the ground.
In short, Fly Safe is a book I will be keeping on my bookshelf to lend to friends and family. I may also keep a few copies on hand to stuff in my neighborhood's little libraries, as that has recently become an oddly satisfying pastime of mine
As you can see, we both enjoyed Fly Safe. It’s a good book about a military family, but it’s also just plain a good book. It’s about a family and community that experiences an assortment of challenges, tragedies, worries, triumphs, and everyday family moments. It’s about long distance relationships, between spouses, families, and friends. For anyone who’s ever said, “Your spouse leaves you all the time? I don’t know how you do it,” this book is your answer.
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Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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