- For more information about this project, visit strykerbook.com
- You can join us on Facebook at facebook.com/stryker.book
// What is this campaign for?
- To cover the cost of editing, printing, and distributing Stryker through major retailers around the country, and bring attention to one of the most important turning points in the Iraq war - one which has been effectively blacked-out by the mainstream media
- To raise money for a national book tour and publicity campaign, so I can do the leg-work needed to get our story into the headlines and the collective memory of America
- To speak up for the millions of veterans who came home from two wars only to find themselves fighting another struggle back home - this time against the flood of misinformation and preconceived notions of military service and PTSD
- To honor and remember the men who paid the ultimate price for freedom during the Siege of Sadr City, and make sure that what they died for will never be forgotten
[Above: Select your reward! Payments will be processed by Amazon Payments upon completion of this campaign]
// Who Am I?
My name is Konrad Ludwig -- I am a writer and a native resident of Los Angeles, California, who joined the army when I was seventeen to serve my country and stand up for what I believed in. Two years later I found myself fighting on the front lines of the Siege of Sadr City, as a machine gun team leader in an urban assault Stryker unit known as "Bull Company."
[Above: A picture of me in the hatch of a Stryker roughly two months into the conflict]
From August of 2007 to November of 2008, we embarked on a 15 month tour in Baghdad as part of the iconic "troop surge" of the Iraq war. As soon as we arrived in the capitol of Iraq, we became the primary conventional kill-or-capture raid element into a totally unsecured and hostile district of Baghdad known as "Sadr City." Our mission was to hunt down the leaders of an elite insurgent militia known as the Ja'Ish Al-Mahdi, and put an end to their influence in the area.
In addition to those raids, however, we had to secure Sadr City's north western border, which turned out to be a junkyard shanty-town marked on our map as "Ur." Little did I know that the second part of that mission would turn out to become a whole lot more than I could've ever imagined...
[Above: Some of the local girls in Ur returning home from school and stopping by the back of our Stryker to say "HI!" It was moments like these that reminded us exactly what we were fighting for...]
For eight months we "beat the streets" in Ur, running a 36-hour patrol cycle to make our own little corner of the war a better place by the time we left. That meant we pulled 24 back-to-back hours of patrols and "quick reaction force" details for each 12 hour refit at our combat outpost on the outskirts of town. When we were out in sector, we lived among the locals. When we were back at our combat outpost, we'd do some maintenance on our vehicles, eat some chow, catch some shut-eye for about six hours, and then roll back out for another patrol.
It was slow going and agonizing work, but after more than two-hundred-twenty days, we had turned some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad into safe havens from the terror of the Ja'Ish Al-Mahdi. By the spring of 2008, we had forced them back into their stronghold of Sadr City - and for a time, things were looking pretty good.
// What happened next?
In March of that year, the Ja'Ish Al-Mahdi rose up in arms, beginning what would soon become the final battle for control over Bagadad - a full five years after the invasion of Iraq. What followed next was a three month struggle to the bitter end - a fight which quickly became one of the largest, bloodiest and most important battles of the war.
[Above: A rocket attack levels a Coalition outpost on the border of Sadr City]
Ultimately, what happened in those streets paved the way for the American withdrawal in Iraq and forever changed our role in the conflict - yet despite the magnitude of the entire operation, word of this battle has barely ever made it home. Essentially, partisan politics and profit-based editorial agendas led to the mainstream media neglecting almost entirely to report on the issue – so until now it has been largely forgotten.
// What is the book about?
Stryker is a first-hand account of what happened in those streets during the final battle for Baghdad. It began as a confession, a letter to old friends, and an attempt to confront the things that I had experienced. My initial goal was to shed some light on what happened, the things I had to do, and why I'll never be the same. As the project unfolded, however, it turned out that there was much more at stake than my own well-being...
[Above: An M1 Abrams tank engages militia troops during a 36-hour firefight to hold an outpost deep behind enemy lines]
Sixteen veterans commit suicide every day. Failed marriages among service members are more than 60% higher than they were in 2001. Pentagon studies now suggest that the average soldier who has spent ten years in the Army has spent more than five of those in combat. And even though we number in the millions, the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are still a relatively silent demographic. We are represented through faint caricatures of our true form, and surrounded by countless stigmas of assumption and stereotype. In reality, we are just like you: we are the same flesh and blood, with the same hopes and dreams - and yes, even the same political divisions and thoughts on the war.
The only difference between us and the rest of America is that we've been shouldering the burden of conflict for the past ten years - and our growing struggles are due in large part to the fact that the majority of the American people have no real concept of the demands we place on our military service members. Instead, we come home from war to re-integrate into a society that has stigmatized, sensationalized and dehumanized the men and women who are fighting for this country every day.
[Above: The real effect of various stressors acting on military service members in regards to attempted and successful suicides for 2010 (via. Department of the Army]
Despite ongoing progress and a never ending fight to have our voice heard, there is very little about our story that makes it onto the nightly news without a filter or an agenda. It was with that in mind I decided to turn my confession into a book and share the story of what happened in Sadr City with the world. The way I saw it, it was my turn to take a stand in putting a face on the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen who are all around the world – every day – putting their own lives in danger for the sake of those of us who stay home.
Like many of my fellow soldiers, I have a voice - but with that voice comes the duty to fill in for the void our media left in the historical record about what really happened in the latter half of the war. I have an obligation to use that voice to tell the story of what happened in Sadr City during the spring fighting of 2008. I owe it to my buddies to show the people what it's like to go there and come home after everything we're put through. So I made it my mission to spread the word and raise awareness for the smallest portion of our country who has served in the war - and I've devoted every day since to this project.
// Why do I need your help?
After three years of relentless effort, countless re-writes, and hundreds of hours of additional research and hard work, I'm proud to say that our story is almost ready to be shared with the world. Thanks to the help and support of my buddies who were there, and a number of other people who are just as passionate about this project as I am, all we have left to do is touch-up the typeset, proof read the manuscript, and get the book into print.
But producing a high quality book to the industry standard takes a lot of time and professional help. Even then, publication is only half the battle. Running a well organized and effective ad campaign is just as important as getting a book into print, and that will take just as much time and commitment as writing the manuscript in the first place.
[Above: One of the early drafts of Stryker, which has been re-worked a number of times since this was shot]
Up until now, I've been lucky to have a lot of help and feedback from professional editors who believe in my work and share a strong conviction that our story needs to be heard - but "free" only goes so far, and the fact is that I can't afford to put food on their plates myself. If this project is going to be completed, I'm going to need a lot more than part-time help, which means paying them for the work they're putting into the project as we get closer to the deadline.
All that takes a lot of money – money I no longer have, given the time, personal investment, and resources I've already put into this book. But kickstarter offers me a unique solution to that problem: thanks to their one-of-a-kind system of “crowd-funding” and incentive based donations, I can go straight to my audience and ask YOU for help. In return, I can offer you a copy of the book and recognition for your help in spreading the word and backing my project.
// So how does this work?
By donating various amounts of money to this campaign, you will qualify for different levels of “rewards.” In this case, each reward I've set up is a different type of pre-order for the book which will go right into financing the project and bringing it out to market. That means as soon as I collect the money I can move forward with our timeline, and you'll be one of the first people to hear the story for yourself in whatever format you've pre-ordered.
Kickstarter is an “all-or-nothing” system. That means if I don't meet my goal by the end of the campaign, nobody gets charged and this book will never get made. On the other hand, there's no ceiling to the amount of money we can raise, and every penny will make a difference in marketing and production of the final print run of the book. So the more backers we can find, the further this book will go, and the more leverage I'll have in negotiations to get it on the ground floor of every bookstore in America.
// So what's in it for you?
Rewards for backing this project range from a simple DRM-free e-book copy of Stryker, to a next-day-air sneak-peek at the book as soon as the campaign is done. For higher level backers, I will be including a special mention in the Acknowledgments of the book, and invitations to the launch party out here in LA. Most of all: as a backer you have the guarantee that you'll be one of the first people to get a copy of the book with free shipping, and access to unique and exclusive options for this campaign. Please, check out the rewards on the right-hand column of this page and remember that the more help we get the better the final product will be!
[Above: A mock-up of the final print and e-book copies of Stryker]
When it's all said and done, every penny raised will go towards editing, printing, distributing, and marketing our story to the world. That means a comprehensive book tour across the country, an online marketing campaign that is top-notch, and a global distribution network that's ready to pipe out copies on-demand to every corner of the world. It means paying the people who have already advanced me an amazingly generous amount of labor on the faith that this book will succeed, and setting up contracts to finish this book.
Again, it's important to stress that the further we can spread the word and the more money we can raise, the bigger difference we can make. At the end of the day you'll not only secure your very own pre-ordered copy of the book, but also help bring awareness to one of the most important and influential events in the Iraq war - one that has been largely and unjustly forgotten.
[Above: The effects of an armor piercing "Explosive Form Penetrator" (EFP) on a Stryker. After cutting through the armor of its target, the molten stream of copper sprays throughout the cabin, often liquefying the men inside. EFP's were the most common weapon used against coalition troops by the Ja'Ish Al-Mahdi]
// Why back this project?
What happened in Sadr City should've never been forgotten – but now we have a chance to make it right. We have a chance to put a face on the human struggle of war in our modern generation, and learn from the mistakes of our current conflict before another breaks out. We have a chance to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in that country, and what they fought for in the streets of Sadr City during the spring of 2008 before history solidifies our memory of the Iraq war.
It's up to us to make a difference.
Please share this with your friends and pre-order your copy of Stryker! Every contribution counts - even if it's just a "retweet" or a "like" - and without you, this project will never come alive.
Thank you for your help!
- Sgt. Konrad R.K. Ludwig, Ret.
- (39 days)