5 takeaways from Ruben Gallego’s new book “They Called Us’ Lucky”

US Representative Ruben Gallego described what it was like to serve in Iraq and what it was like to return home in his new memoir: “They called us ‘Lucky’: The Life and Afterlife of the Iraq War’s Hardest Hit Unit “.

Gallego documented his military career, beginning when he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in the fall of 2000. The book focuses on his time with “Lucky Lima” Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment , who lost no limbs in their first two months of deployment before suffering the most casualties of any unit in Iraq.

He spoke about his feelings about the war and his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, his election to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010 and to the United States House of Representatives in 2014 In a coda at the end of the book, Gallego writes about his experience during the January 6 uprising on the United States Capitol.

The book, published Nov. 9 by Harper Collins, was co-authored by Jim DeFelice, who has counted more than 50 books on the New York Times bestseller list, including one of the co-authors of “American Sniper “. an autobiography on the US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

Gallego, a four-term Democratic congressman, represents Arizona’s 7th District and is running for re-election in 2022.

Here are five things we learned from Gallego in “They Called Us ‘Lucky’”.

Gallego felt more like a ‘typical’ Marine than a Harvard student

As a first-generation American and the son of Colombian and Mexican immigrants, Gallego said he was more tied to the Marines than to Harvard University, his undergraduate institution, as he grew up in poverty. and wanted to improve through military service.

His desire to apply to Harvard University stemmed from not wanting to continue living in poverty and to avoid becoming like his father, a drug dealer who spent time in prison. After her parents divorced, Gallego lived with her mother and siblings near Chicago in an apartment where the children slept on the bare living room floor because they had neither the space nor the money to a mattress.

Gallego wrote in the book:

“Lying on the floor of our apartment one night, hungry and tired because I was working after school earning money to help my mother pay for things, I thought to myself that was not who I was. was. I wasn’t going to be a poor trash the rest of my life. I went to college no matter what. Which university ? The best: Harvard. “

At Harvard, Gallego found the dorms luxurious compared to his previous accommodations. Socially, he felt out of place because of the wealth gap between him and most of the other students. He was just as baffled as the girls he dated who didn’t understand that he couldn’t afford to take them out as often as he would like, and that he also couldn’t rely on. his parents for financial assistance. Professionally, he didn’t have the social network to help secure the internships that his richer, more connected counterparts have.

In the Marines there were more people closer to his socio-economic background who were also trying to lift themselves out of poverty, serve their country and create a better future.

Reservists are just as important as “regulars”

U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, has written a book about his experiences in the Iraq War titled "They called us

Gallego graduated from Harvard in 2004 and joined a reserve unit in New Mexico. Months later, he and other members of the reserve unit were assigned to Lima Company along with approximately 185 other Marines. In 2005, they participated in dozens of “sweeps” in Iraqi deserts and towns to seize weapons and hunt or kill followers of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

In the book, Gallego addressed the perception that Reservists are less important than those who are full-time, career members, citing how his Lima Company unit engaged in combat more often than many of his non-professional counterparts. reservists and none of the deaths they suffered. occurred due to lack of preparation or knowledge.

“There is a tendency among some of the uninformed – and even those who should know better – to look down on reservists from all branches. They are called ‘part-time soldiers’ or ‘weekend warriors’, which implies less trained than the “regular” military, but also less capable and dedicated, “Gallago wrote.

There is no shame in having PTSD

Gallego discussed the guilt of his survivor and friends and his own struggles with PTSD which continues long after the war. He finally recognized that it is a disease that never goes away completely.

“Despite being in Congress, despite having a political career that I’m sure others would envy, I was still emotionally stuck in a darker space,” Gallego wrote. “I knew I had kind of a hangover from war. Sometimes I even admitted to myself that I could have some kind of low-level PTSD.drank more than I should have. I smoked more than I should have. I lost my temper more than I should have. Why didn’t I have control over these things?

“I had nightmares. I thought of my deceased friends. I wondered why I was alive. I couldn’t find anything to cheer me up. bedroom. I constantly saw danger in the shadows. Ten years after the war, my fears were still real. Still, I succeeded. Very successful. PTSD? “

With the help of a counselor, Gallego learned that most people with PTSD do not have such a severe form that they cannot function in society, which helps her come to terms with her diagnosis and to empathize with others who are struggling with the disorder. After privately telling some veterans he was suffering from PTSD, a reporter asked him to profile members of Congress who were veterans and asked him if he had the disease. Gallego answered honestly.

“There is a stigma (about PTSD) that we have to fight,” Gallego told The Arizona Republic in an interview. “This is one of the reasons I’m very open to having PTSD.… If, as a congressman, I can go out and, I would say, be treated well with people who know. that I have PTSD, I hope these young men and women can do the same and get the help they need. “

In a statement summarizing what he hopes readers will take away from the book, Gallego said: “War sucks, but sometimes it is necessary. Reservists can do as good a job as members of “regular” units. ashamed of. “

Gallego named his son after his late comrade and best friend

In 2010, Gallego married Kate Gallego, whom he met while studying at Harvard University, and followed her west. She is now the mayor of Phoenix. They have a son together, Michael Grant Gallego, born after the couple split at the end of 2016.

“I told him he was named after his grandfather and my best friend, Grant. I told him about Grant and told him he would become a good man just like Grant,” Gallego wrote to About what he said to his son soon after. was born.

Gallego married Sydney Barron Gallego, a Democratic lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors, earlier this year.

Gallego met Lance Corporal Jonathan Grant, who would become his best friend, in the Marine Reserve Unit in New Mexico. Grant trained with Gallego to meet fitness requirements, eventually becoming his advisor and confidant – a man Gallego describes as someone who always took care of others.

After moving from being the unit’s communication point to a new post, Grant barely made it out alive in a shootout while hunting down enemy combatants in May 2005. Two days later, he was killed by an improvised explosive device explosion during Operation Matador. .

Gallego’s unit went through the first two months of its deployment to Iraq with no casualties and was therefore nicknamed “Lucky Lima”. But in just under six months, Lima Company lost 22 Marines and one Marine Corps member killed in action. In total, Gallego’s battalion lost 48 men, making it the hardest-hit battalion in Iraq, with the highest death toll of any Marine unit since the 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Lebanon which killed 220 body members.

“It was a hell of a record for any unit in combat,” Gallego writes, “not to mention a reserve unit. … One thing I had to learn as time went by in Iraq was this: Even the best get killed. Intensive training and good leadership increase your chances (of survival). But we all have a limited supply of luck that eventually runs out. I had to learn this the hard way.

Representative Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, stands in a chair as lawmakers prepare to evacuate the floor as rioters attempt to enter the chamber of the House of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington.

Gallego led reporters to safety on January 6

Gallego described the chaos that ensued during the January 6 uprising and how he led journalists to safety when they were not allowed to take shelter with elected officials.

“Hearing the uproar, I went and heard the MP explain that she feared for their safety. But the guards were adamant, acting on orders: they would admit it, but not them,” he said. writing.

“Come with me,” I told reporters. “We will go to a safe place.” I bring them out of the room, marching in combat mode – deliberate, careful, quick. I scanned ahead, found solutions to potential surprises, left, ready for whatever happened. We moved quickly through a maze of hallways, hallways and stairs to my office. There I told them to get comfortable – which is by no means an easy task – and gave them some safety tips. We established a protocol for coming and going, and I went out to walk the halls looking for other people stuck in the commotion. “

Tara Kavaler is a political reporter for The Arizona Republic. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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