2005 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph courtesy of Murad Sezer, April 8, 2014
Airstrikes rain down. Gatling guns and howitzers pound. Snipers lurk in the distance. Welcome to the medical aid station of a young doctor embedded with the heavily weaponized 1st Marines Division as the Battle of Fallujah boils to a head.
Sharing the harrowing entries from his field diary, Lieutenant Commander Donnelly Wilkes becomes the first-ever U.S. military physician to recount the sights and sounds of one of the most violent events of the entire Iraq War. In heart-pounding detail he recalls his struggles to save wounded warriors, even as rockets land close enough to knock him off his feet.
Rarely have U.S. military physicians been so close to combat in a major conflict as they were in the chaotic, embattled streets of Fallujah. When Wilkes, fresh out of medical school, is suddenly thrust into this war zone, his skills, his faith, and his ability to endure are all put to the test. Code Red Fallujah is the wrenching, intimate memoir of a doctor who, when faced with unimaginable tragedy, ultimately experiences an intense and inspiring spiritual reckoning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donnelly Wilkes, M.D. is a California native. He is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Wilkes obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of California Irvine, and his Medical Degree from Tulane University School of Medicine on a full Navy Scholarship. Following medical school, Wilkes was commissioned in the U.S. Navy, completed residency training in Family Medicine at the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, and served seven years on active duty.
Wilkes served two combat tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2008 and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for valor during the battle of Fallujah in April of 2004. He finished his Naval career as the Senior Medical Officer at Port Hueneme Naval Clinic where he was responsible for the medical oversight of active duty members, their families and local Veterans.
Upon completion of his Naval service, Dr. Wilkes was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant Commander and opened Wilkes Family Medicine in August of 2009. He is now the President and Medical Director of Summit Health Group in Thousand Oaks, California. Dr. Wilkes is a devoted husband, father and Christian. “My faith and family are everything to me, and I have dedicated this work to them.”
SETTING THE SCENE
Code Red Fallujah kicks off in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wilkes describes his idyllic beginnings as an adventurous young medical student. With a Navy scholarship in hand, and newly found love in his life, Wilkes feels the world at his feet. Little did he know, Sept 9/11 is around the corner, and will change his Navy career forever – propelling him into a Marine Corps battalion destined for Fallujah.
The book continues alongside Doctor Wilkes and the men of 1st Marines Division as the Battle of Fallujah boils to a head becoming one of the most violent events of the entire Iraq War. Wilkes describes the heart pounding details of treating combat trauma amidst rockets and mortar attacks as his infantry battalion engages the enemy on the streets of Fallujah.
As Code Red Fallujah unfolds, the reader is carried into the idles of deployment life, and the chaos and death that accompanies combat. Wilkes reflects on the night that it all came to a head for him at the cloverleaf: Despite all out efforts, Corporal Jackson dies in their arms at his battalion aid station in the battle of Fallujah; Wilkes shares the intense spiritual reckoning that follows, bringing him strength and comfort when there was none.
For Lieutenant Commander Wilkes and the men of 1st Marines Division, as it was for so many - coming home did not mean the end of their commitment. In 2008 Doctor Wilkes was called upon once more to support The Marine Corps in Iraq. As he journeyed once again to the remote outskirts of Iraq, he felt the calling to put his experiences from Fallujah onto paper – it was there and then Code Red Fallujah was born.