News: Soldier meets favorite author: Action thriller authors visit service members in Basra
By Sgt. Raymond Quintanilla
BASRA, Iraq – A soldier in southern Iraq got the chance to meet his favorite author courtesy of a USO authors tour billed as “Operation Thriller.”
Staff Sgt. David Thomas, a native of Evergreen, Company, and a chaplain assistant non-commissioned officer with the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division grew up reading the works of David Morrell. Morrell has penned many best-selling books, including “First Blood,” the novel that inspired the Rambo movies.
"My father was a big fan of his and he got me started reading Morrell’s books,” Thomas said. “I’ve read almost everything he’s written.”
When Thomas heard Morrell would be visiting Basra Airfield along with four other novelists (Andy Harp, Steve Berry, Douglas Preston, and James Rollins) as part of Operation Thriller, he got permission to fly the 100 miles from Camp Adder to Basra and meet him in person.
“I haven’t been this excited about anything in a long time,” Thomas said. “He’s the pinnacle of everything I really like. I’ve met several writers, but he’s the one that I’ve never been able to meet and the one I’ve wanted to meet the most.”
Morrell said he was surprised by Thomas, who has been exchanging emails with him since 2003 during the Soldier’s first deployment to Iraq.
“I was stunned when he said he was the person,” Morrell said. “The story is an interesting one. He had gotten in touch with me during the early years of this war.”
“When I was here in 2003, I emailed him, asking if he would sign my books if I’d sent them,” Thomas said. “He wouldn’t.”
“About a month or so later I received ten of his favorite books he had written, autographed to me,” Thomas said.
Morrell said he rarely mails books to fans, but something in Thomas’s e-mail made him do so.
“I think it was ten books I sent,” said Morrell, “which in itself was very unusual. I remember vividly going down the post office and sending it to him.”
On his sixth deployment, and his fourth away from his wife, Thomas said it was the best thing that has happened during his current tour.
For Morrell, going on the USO-sponsored tour is a chance to give back to a segment of the population he has always admired and perhaps gain some inspiration for a future novel.
Morrell cited retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, whose book ‘On Killing’ has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, as the source of his personal motto.
“He says, ‘surround yourself with people of quality and substance’,” Morrell said. “That’s the way I feel about the United States military. They have a degree of selfless commitment, responsibility and professionalism, a stable structure I find admirable.”
“There is something powerful about people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, it’s rare.”