■ REVIEW: The Crossroad
Fascinating tale of underdog making good

Winning the Victoria Cross requires actions beyond what most normal men or women would ever consider undertaking.

There was nothing in the young Mark Donaldson’s life to suggest he would become anything other than an Aussie larrikin. There was the drinking, surfing, snowboarding and a bit of trouble-making, along with a significant attitude, but nothing to suggest he would do something heroic.

In fact, reading his early story, it’s hard to imagine him becoming a soldier. Yet he did, and an honoured one at that.

Donaldson is Australia’s version of Willie Apiata (the first Kiwi to receive the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, which replaced the Commonwealth honours system).

Also Australia’s highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross for Australia was presented to Donaldson after he saved a colleague’s life while under heavy enemy fire in Afghanistan in September 2008.

But his journey to that point was as interesting as the battle tales were.

A rebellious teenager, he was the son of a Vietnam vet who would die while he was a teenager, and his mother would later disappear, presumed murdered. The impact of those deaths is clear.

He recounts his early years, his struggle with his mother’s death, his decision to join the army and then the challenge on joining the SAS, as well as his tours in Afghanistan.

It’s in his words and you are left with no doubt about his feelings on various aspects of his life.

It’s a fascinating tale of the underdog coming good and it rips along at a great pace. Not only does it provide an interesting insight into him but you also get a window into the secretive world of the SAS.

The Crossroad – A story of life, death and the SAS, by Mark Donaldson, VC (Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $40)

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