While the brothers, both Airborne Rangers are involved in Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada, a secret is revealed and their lives unravel. Living in the same Georgia town, how can two disparate families come to grips with one man’s “other life”? Strangers Brothers, the sequel to Ray Flaherty’s He Didn’t Say Good-Bye, tells the story of the coming together of two brothers, from different cultures, and raised separately by the same father.
Master Sergeant Raymond F. Flaherty (6 August 1927 - 11 September 2006), author of He Didn’t Say Good-Bye and the sequel Strangers Brothers was the eldest of nine children. Raised in Boston, Ray attended public school until World War II interrupted his education. He served aboard ship with the Merchant Marine until he entered the U. S. Army in 1945.
During the Korean War, he was a member of the 9th Airborne Ranger Company and saw ground combat with Company L, 15th Infantry Regiment. There he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart Medals and his first award of the Combat Infantryman Badge.
In 1962, Flaherty went to Laos on Operation White Star as a team sergeant of an ‘A’ Detachment from the 7th Special Forces Group.
His first tour in South Vietnam was as a team sergeant of an ‘A’ Detachment from the 1st Special Forces Group in 1963, where he was awarded his second Combat Infantryman Badge.
Ray returned to South Vietnam in 1965 to serve as intelligence sergeant of the 4th Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, then as operations sergeant of a ‘B’ Detachment of the 5th Special Forces Group.
According to Col. Richard O. Sutton, M.D., author of the book Operation White Star, the character known as “Flag” is based on Master Sergeant Raymond F. Flaherty.
Strangers Brothers is the sequel to He Didn’t Say Good-Bye portraying the lives of the next generation, Airborne Rangers, part of the Grenada invasion force.
He Didn’t Say Good-Bye was a contender for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 and Strangers Brothers was a Pulitzer Prize contender in 2009.
MSG Charles James, US Army (Ret.) said: Master Sergeant Ray Flaherty’s Strangers Brothers is a well-written novel that allows you to follow Kumpang (Tom Aquinas) from childhood to manhood. It’s a story of a young boy who has set almost impossible goals for himself in order to honor the man who was the father figure in his life. Flaherty’s unique storytelling transforms the reader into the mind of Kumpang as he goes from an immigrant Lao lad on through the invasion of Grenada as a Ranger.
Anyone who has endured the rigors of Basic Training, Jump School and Ranger training will enjoy Flaherty’s narrative. You re-live the pain of the ‘M14 thumb’ (mine was the ‘M1 Thumb’), and the fear of standing in the door of a mock-up on the 34-foot tower, staring down at the ‘Black Hat.’ Thirty-four feet seemed like a thousand when you stood there knowing you were to leap out into space, and the only things that would keep you from plummeting to the Georgia brick-hard red clay below were those two, thin, risers connected to your harness and a thin cable. You prayed to God that none would snap. You screamed out your number and leapt into space, your eyes squeezed shut, your arms flailing in the wind, even while your fingers gripped the reserve parachute pack on your chest. The fall, that seemed to go on forever, was suddenly jerked to a stop as the risers reached the end of the slack, and you coasted slowly down the cable.
There was the panoramic view as you were hoisted to the top of the 250-foot towers. When you stared out across the horizon, you swore you could almost see the curvature of the earth. Then, the click of the lock when the ring which held your parachute engaged the release, and you felt the chute break loose. The instructor’s voice drummed in your ears. “You have the dirty arm, Trooper. Slip to the right. Slip to the right!”
And yes, there were a couple of incidents where jumpers had slipped into the towers. . . .
War is war, whether it be World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Afghanistan or Iraq, and Flaherty’s description of the invasion of Grenada places you with those Rangers aboard the Blackhawks as they approached the landing zone. You can almost feel the heat as the choppers are hit, burst into flames and crashed to the ground. Only someone who has been there can know the fear of coming under fire for the first time. Then events happen so swiftly that you react, not because you’re thinking, but because the training you had made you do things out of instinct. The screw-ups before and during the invasion, no maps, no beacons to guide the choppers in, unknown assessments of the enemy troops, all contributed to an almost disastrous engagement but created the scenario for the final outcome of the story.
Strangers Brothers is a novel well-worth reading.
- Carol Salzman said: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Strangers Brothers. Truthfully, it made me think, long after I put it down. It gave me insight into things I'd heard but didn’t really understand: for instance, the training. I have always known it was hard, but had no details. The comradeship was there, too.
- Marie E. Roman, Educator said: A great read! Strangers Brothers show how the practical and emotional understanding of one man (“Tom”) can bring goals, success, and two culturally disparate families together. Strangers Brothers has an emotional immediacy that never leaves . . . It carries right to the last page. The ending brought a tear to my eye. In fact, many passages brought tears of sorrow or joy.
Midwest Book review Small Press Bookwatch: The Fiction Shelf November 2008 said: Strangers Brothers, Raymond F. Flaherty with Pat McDonough, ISBN 978-0-9653467-8-8, $21.95, www.terrasanctapress.com. A good novel is one that presents a unique character that the reader can identify with, feel an empathy for, and want to know what will ultimately happen to. By that standard, Strangers Brothers by Pulitzer Prize nominated author Raymond F. Flaherty is a first-class novel that introduces Kumpang, an immigrant boy from Laos who enlists in the American Army, goes through basic training, jump school, and Ranger training, to take his place as a Ranger and participates in the invasion of Grenada.
A Master Sergeant in the Airborne Rangers and the American Special Forces who served in Korea, Laos, and Vietnam, Raymond Flaherty provides both experience and expertise with respect to the context of his novel that incorporates an intimacy, an accuracy, and an emotional resonance that makes Strangers Brothers a particularly engaging read and a very strongly recommended addition to the community library fiction shelves and personal reading lists.
Also very highly recommended is Raymond Flaherty's earlier novel, He Didn't Say Good-Bye (Terra Sancta Press 978-0-9653467-7-1, $24.95).
General audiences, history buffs, military personnel and their families, mature high school students, and those with special interest in the U.S. Army Airborne Rangers.
- BISAC CODE
- MILITARY SCIENCE / GRENADA / US AIRBORNE RANGERS / OPER. URGENT FURY / FICTION
- MILITARY SCIENCE / PARATROOPER TRAINING / NON-FICTION