Book Reviews

True Survival – Book Review of Buried Alive by Roy Hallums

About the Book

In November of 2004 Roy Hallums, a retired US Navy Commander, working as a contractor in Iraq was kidnapped from his office. He spent the next 311 days as a hostage. Buried Alive is Roy’s story of his time in captivity and how he made it through the experience alive. For example, he used the daily prayers of his captors and regular overflights of Coalition Forces helicopter flights Roy was able to stay oriented to time and his relative location. With tremendous resolve and focus Roy survived numerous beatings, near starvation, and almost total sensory deprivation.

In addition to telling his own story Roy uses interviews and diaries of his family to tell the story of what they experienced. Obviously his unknown whereabouts and health was troubling to his family. Roy uses their accounts to tell how they managed the experience and their efforts to help find and rescue Roy.

He also has interviewed the members of the US Hostage Working Group, FBI, and Special Forces to describe how his kidnapping was investigated and the clues that led to a daring rescue by US Special Forces. The combination of narrative from three vantage points kept me turning the pages quickly. Roy was successfully rescued, in relative good mental and physical health, after 311 days in captivity. I am amazed at his resolve and honored to have read his story.

Could I survive?
My natural inclination when reading any story of true survival is to wonder how I would handle the same or similar situation? Could I stay in the moment to make decisions that could save my life? How would I tolerate sustained deprivation from food, water, light, and human contact? What level of pain from beatings, insect infestations, and living in my own filth would cause me to break?

I hope I never have to answer those questions as a hostage, but knowing that it is possible is reassuring to me. Roy’s story led me to reflect on the importance of all that I have each day and how thankful I am for time with my wife and children. Life is tenuous and can change rapidly.

Iraq War Vantage Points
Buried Alive is the second book I have read in 2010 written from the perspective of a single individual experiencing the Iraq War (the other was Saber’s Edge). Previously most of my reading has been at the strategic level from journalists, policy makers, and elected officials. The first person view point humanizes the conflict and the tremendous impact it is having on the soldiers and contractors that have been on the front lines of this conflict. I am grateful to them and their families.

I review for BookSneeze
Note: I wrote this review as a member of the Booksneeze Blog Reviewer team. This is an Everyday EMS Tips book review. If you want your book or product reviewed check out the guidelines here.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.