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Nurse to speak about working at Abu Ghraib

Deanna Germain didn't expect an assignment in Abu Ghraib. When she's asked if she would do it all over again she responds with a definite yes. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib.2 / 2

When Lt. Col. Deanna Germain came back from Iraq, she had conflicting emotions about coming home.

"It's the oddest of feelings," she said.

She had missed her granddaughter's first steps, first words and all other "first moments."

But she gained a valuable experience she would never forget. Various accounts of interaction with Abu Ghraib prisoners filled a book that she will discuss next Friday at the Park Rapids Area Library.

Germain is a seasonal resident on Lower Bottle Lake who calls Park Rapids her second home. She's the author of "Reaching Past the Wire: A Nurse at Abu Ghraib."

The nurse practitioner was in the U.S. Army Reserves for 35 years.

When she received her last deployment notice in February 2003 and at 53 years old, she never thought she'd be in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison "curing the enemy."

But she quickly adapted to treating detainees as patients only and not criminals.

"I had never worked in a prison, didn't have an idea, how to treat people who have reportedly harmed someone else," she said. "Once I got in there and had to do my job, I did it without regard of who they were."

Germain wasn't too far from danger and frequent mortar attacks. She was trained as a soldier first and a nurse second. But her book focuses on the human interest side of things as opposed to the war itself.

"I haven't seen another book written by a nurse," Germain said. "My experience is rather unique in Abu Ghraib."

When she came home after 18 months of service, friends and relatives constantly asked her what it was like being there and if it was hard to leave.

Although she never thought about gathering her vivid memories to produce nonfiction, she wanted to answer all of those questions while staying away from the medical stories.

A friend approached her about writing a short article, but her stories were enough to fill a 214-page book.

It took her a little more than a year to finish Reaching Past the Wire.

The book is short and sweet, said Park Rapids Friends of the Library Book Club member Dolores Olsen.

It's a quick read that grabbed the club's attention and since Germain will be in Park Rapids all of next week, members said they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

The discussion will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 10 at the Park Rapids Area Library. Beagle Books is also hosting a book signing at noon, Saturday, July 11.