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Common Read Kicks Off With Author Visit

Mullaney’s memoir, “ The Unforgiving Minute,” is this year’s Minnesota State University Common Read book, a program that invites any­one on campus and in the community to read the book and take part in a series of related activities.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 9-5-2012

MANKATO — Wearing a jacket over a button-up shirt, legs casually crossed, engaging in reflective and scholarly conversation about his upbringing and education in front of an auditorium of students, it’s hard to imagine Craig Mullaney (pictured left) at war.

The Rhode Island-born Army veter­an is far from the stereotypical soldier. But then, as Mullaney goes on to describe the rich diversity of the sol­diers he led, it seems the stereotypical soldier no longer exists.

Mullaney’s memoir, “ The Unforgiving Minute,” (pictured bottom right) is this year’s Minnesota State University Common Read book, a program that invites any­one on campus and in the community to read the book and take part in a series of related activities. The kickoff was Tuesday night’s visit by Mullaney to campus.

In the Centennial Student Union Ballroom, communications studies professor Dave Engen interviewed Mullaney in front of hundreds of stu­dents, staff and community members, putting a major emphasis on Mullaney’s education.

Mullaney attended an all-boys Catholic school before going onto West Point and later Oxford University. His education and training prepared him for his service in Afghanistan, where as an infantry officer he led a rifle platoon of soldiers along the hostile Pakistan border. His platoon was the most decorated in Afghanistan during its tour, and Mullaney received the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

The memoir examines Mullaney’s self- doubt and his struggle to deal with being faced with mortality at such a young age.

“I thought the book I wrote wasn’t a war story at all,” Mullaney said. “I think of it as a growing up story.” Mullaney said he found himself back from Afghanistan in the spring of 2004, and he struggled with finding a way to communicate the “deep, dense experience” of war with his friends and family. Sitting down to write helped him make sense of the experience, and eventually he was encouraged to share it with a larger audience.

“You’re almost bleeding onto the page,” he said of the writing process.

David Lipsky, contributing editor of Rolling Stone, wrote this about the book: “‘ The Unforgiving Minute’ is the ultimate soldier’s book — universal in its raw emotion and its understanding of the larger issues of life and death.

Mullaney, a master storyteller, plunges the depths of self- doubt, endurance, and courage. The result: a riveting, suspenseful human story, beautifully told.”

Mullaney has enjoyed hearing about what readers have gotten from the book that perhaps he hadn’t intended. Some young people read about his shoulder dislocation and told him that’s the reason they second-guessed wanting to serve in the military. Others have the opposite response.

Mullaney said he simply hoped to give an accurate portrayal of a military experience. He said, these days, the military has never been so well-respected and misunderstood at the same time.

Engen asked Mullaney if he had words of wisdom for MSU students in regard to their approach to education. Mullaney gave a somewhat unexpected response, telling students to make sure to be social and to dive into extra- curricular activities.

“Much of education is what happens outside of the classroom,” he said.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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