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Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Survive, and Get Back to the Fight Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

On Memorial Day 2007, award-winning CBS foreign correspondent Dozier's life changed forever. She and her crew were covering a routine patrol in Baghdad when they were hit by a car bomb that left four people dead and Dozier with massive injuries to her legs and head. Here, she recounts her struggle to stay alive, her survivor's guilt, and her road to recovery. An engaging and compelling book whose delivery is strengthened by Dozier's experience as a journalist and radio broadcaster; recommended for all public libraries. [Audio clip, author interview, and CBS video footage taken moments after the blast available through—Ed.]—Emma Duncan, Brampton Lib., Ont.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


The book is fairly gritty and unvarnished about the hospital and recovery process, so hospital staff recommend that loved ones read it to understand what a patient is going through. Military commanders say the blow-by-blow of the bombing also starts conversations between troops and loved ones about what they've seen overseas.

Kimberly Dozier is a former CBS news correspondent who became the news during an embed assignment in Baghdad over the Memorial Day weekend in 2006. What was to be a 'routine' assignment, if such a thing existed, turned into a hellish nightmare after a 500 pound car bomb was detonated at the scene. Assigned to follow a patrol over the holiday while Americans at home were eating their barbeque and doing their best to forget about the war, the incident put the war back 'above the fold'. Four members of the party, Captain ames Alex Funkhouser, USA, CBS cameraman Paul Douglas, CBS soundman James Brolan and Captain Funhouser's Iraqi translator, Sam, died at the scene, all but Douglas, instantly. Breathing the Fire is Dozier's account of that day and the aftermath it wrought. The story is engrossing, and as a reporter, Dozier makes it a compelling read. The book opens with Dozier setting the scene the night before the assignment. From there she darts back and forth through time, recounting the story as well as how she put the pieces of the story together. Not unusually for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) sufferer, it took a lot of time and a lot of digging to get the pieces to fall into place. She had to rely on information from outside sources until her slowly recovering brain could fill in all the facts. Breathing the Fire gives an in-depth view of trauma care and a small glimpse of the people who provide it. Dozier sets the scene from the Baghdad street corner all the way through her return to work. Included are stops at the Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in Baghdad's Green Zone and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a "way station" in Germany for injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as troops based in Germany and their family members. From there Dozier is transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and finally to Kernan Hospital for further rehabilitation. Through each step, Dozier paints a vivid picture of her injuries, her pain and her care. The tale is emotionally raw and honest. She describes the toll that the bomb took not only on her and her loved ones, but those of the other victims as well. She talks to other service members from the scene as well as family members of those that were lost. In the process, she also tells the story of how she got to her position in Baghdad. The book is really an autobiography of her entire life, including her fight to return to 'normal life' and get back in the field. Overall, this was a riveting read; almost in stream-of-consciousness mode, the pages keep turning as the tale moves along. The faults are few: Dozier shows a tendency to repeat herself occasionally; the quickly shifting timeline can be a little confusing at times; she also tends to break situations, things and people into simply dichotomies. There is very little grey; there is good and there is evil. And, with very few exceptions, regarding people, the split is class-based: military figures in the field are all good, administrators, not so much. Nurses and corpsmen are good, doctors tend to be evil. (This is one area where exceptions can be found, notably Dr. Dunne at Bethesda) Additionally, Dozier spends a decent amount of the book justifying herself, her life and her career choices. While understandable given the context, at times it doesn't come across very well. She mentions in the postscript to the paperback edition that with some time and distance, she saw the writing as "angry" and chose not to edit that out, as it was her true self at that time. I didn't sense anger so much as defensiveness and I don't know that Dozier has anything about which to be defensive.

This is the best book I've read about being blown up in Iraq, nearly dying, and recovering. Kim, one of the more courageous people I've ever met, is donating all profits to charities for wounded soldiers. So what are you waiting for?

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565236157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565236158
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,345,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kathy on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I pre-ordered this book because I have known Kim since college. I looked at the pictures but couldn't bring myself to read the book right away. I was afraid I couldn't handle the truth - another one of our college friends had visited Kim during her rehab in Baltimore and had told me how she was doing then, and I was scared of reading the whole story. So, I only picked up the book now, three months later. I figured it was finally time to find out the whole truth.

It was not an easy read. But, as they say, "war is hell." And Kim takes us on her all too real journey and out the other side. She not only shows us how she survived covering the war in Iraq, but also how she navigated a medical system in which some professionals don't always listen to their patients, but also shows us how the best ones do. She exposes a news business in which women journalists are sometimes judged not only by their skills but also on their looks. She reveals her truth, which while not always pretty, is ultimately beautiful. She also admits her fear of failure, something many women of our generation have had to conquer, although perhaps none of us quite so vividly and with the world watching.

Kim's book truly is a tribute to those who were lost that day, those who survived, and all those who help the survivors, including Kim. The truth of this war, indeed of any war, is an ugly one, but this book offers us a glimpse behind the curtain. It is vitally important that we look.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Donald A. Lee on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Dozier has written a compelling look behind the scene of modern day war coverage. Her day by day account of her near-death experience and recovery should be mandatory reading for journalism students. The book also stands a wonderful tribute to her slain co-workers.
I really liked this book and would recommend it to all.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Krause on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Kimberly Dozier has done an outstanding job of telling her story with a perspective that few other journalists could provide. Her tenacity and her will to survive and regain her health, along with her desire to honor her crew and the military men who did not make for an unforgettable read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Margaret M. Feodoroff on July 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book thinking, "I am not sure if I can relate to this". War stories are not my reading genre of choice. But, I had met Kim over the phone one day and so received an e-mail from her letting me and all her address book addressees that her book had been published. So, I ordered one from Amazon not quite knowing what to expect. This book is so NOT a war story. It is the courageous story of a woman with a goal who achieved that goal, a goal which led her into combat where a life-changing event changed her life forever, as well as so many other lives. I was drawn in the moment I started reading. Kim's writing is clear, concise, factual, with just the right amount of emotion and personality. She lets people in to her very personal yet very public experience without a hint of self pity or any reference to a "poor me" attitude. The book is an inspiring one about a woman of intelligence, bravery, dedication, and love who dared to follow her dream, went through a nightmare, and is today a source of strength to people chasing a dream or living with their own struggle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Buffalo Girl on June 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What comes through in BREATHING THE FIRE is Dozier's skill as a storyteller. She is a reporter through and through, even when relaying her own story. Without fail she delivers the telling detail. Her story of injury, recovery, loss, and ultimately hope needs no embellishment and she gives it none. A frank, compelling, and inspiring read from a courageous and insightful individual.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Iliff on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First off, full disclosure. I have met Kimberly, and we have exchanged emails. I respect her as a journalist, and now as an author.

Her book is a quick read, but not always a pleasant one. In her brisk style honed as a broadcast writer conveys a candid and authoritative narrative. I found three themes of particular interest.

Her description of military medical practices is fascinating. She gives a detailed yet comprehensible explanation of the life-saving methods practiced by corpsmen and medics on the battlefield. Procedures immediately after the explosion are clearly spelled out, and I think that has to be a comfort to anyone who has a friend or relative in harm's way.

She also tells us about the long and agonizing rehabilitation process from start to finish. Too often we only hear about the tragic incident and then the outcome, whether it's happy or bittersweet. The gut-wrenching middle gets left out or short-changed. But Kimberly clarifies the recovery process without being maudlin or grotesque. This book is highly recommended for anyone facing long recovery from serious injury (and for their family and friends).

Kimberly's decision regarding the choice of psychotropic drugs versus counseling is instructive and can be a guide to others in similar situations. She recognized, or perhaps just sensed, that she did not need drugs. Of the three states of mental health problems -- stress, distress and disorder - she was battling the first two, but not the third.

Her counseling references also are in stark contrast to the situation for many active military personnel. DOD recognizes other mental health professions for independent insurance reimbursement, but not certified counselors.
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