The Extra Mile: Memories of a fulfilling experience during the civil war

The Extra Mile: Memories of a fulfilling experience during the civil war

“A mission accomplished in life which money cannot acquire”

Gamini, with Col. Anton Wijendra and Col. Sarath Fonseka at the Elephant pass Army camp after the victorious “Balavegaya military operation”

In 1982, finding himself in Polonnaruwa, in a remote corner  of the North Central Province, far from the bustling city of London, the young Consultant Surgeon soon settles in to serving a rural farming community. Continuing to serve voluntarily for over six years amidst many hardships, the wide experience he gains is remarkably reflected throughout the saga of ‘The Extra Mile’.
The author’s easygoing, erudite and interesting style takes one through a life changing journey interspersed with subtle humour that captivates the reader.

It transpires that the unusual practice of treating farmers exposed to horrific farming accidents and villagers attacked by wild animals, came in handy to treat gunshot injuries and subsequently injuries due to explosions, suffered by soldiers and civilians. With the onset of the ethnic conflict, how all this morphed into an intriguing mixture of dedication, compassion and devotion towards healing and relieving human suffering and an allure for learning more about treatment of war injuries, is fascinating.

In the process, selfless service, courage, hard work, the management of meager resources and dedication are highlighted. During times of crises the art, of streamlining the approach of prioritising treatment from a purely professional and humanitarian perspective, unruffled by political pressures, establishing the necessity for equality whilst saving lives, is perfected.

Dr Gamini Goonetilleke’s thirst for knowledge and perseverance to learn on his own are demonstrated by the detailed descriptions of mines and explosive weapons.  The horrific injuries they cause and how patients should be categorised systematically and treated, based on personal experience, has surely revolutionised the treatment of trauma patients in Military Hospitals. The tremendous shortcomings in the medical field under which our Army fought on bravely at the time are thereby stridently portrayed. The details and supporting pictures require a stomach for such unsettling realties and are not for the faint hearted. The practical efforts taken to impart knowledge are exemplary. 

Those unaware will undeniably be enlightened by the well researched crucial Operations of War in Sri Lanka which are outlined. Operational conditions, aspects and fears endured are illuminated by the fluid writing style and insightful observations made from both sides of the dividing line, which is unique. The reader is taken through realistic scenarios, of a country in turmoil, divided by warring factions, interspersed with the author’s personal interactions.
Tragedies that overcame innocent civilians in border villages and unarmed soldiers travelling home on leave and the hardships of those in Jaffna are heart wrenching.

Portrayal of the conditions within a besieged camp and the horrors, pain, anguish and bravery of those under siege, from firsthand accounts of those who experienced it, are extremely realistic.  Dramatic aspects and the bravery of a soldier who is caught in a devastating mine blast and what follows adds a humane perspective and a touch of romanticism to the narrative.
The startling fact that professionalism, combined with honesty and integrity when exhibited, makes one privy to rare information and special consideration and    transcends political and even military power, is a theme that emerges clearly from the chronicle on the two fishermen. 

“The Extra Mile” will undoubtedly educate and motivate not only young medical consultants, but all professionals including those in the armed forces to take the accurate path. It brings out facts and is a stark reminder with examples, that experience gained on the job can never be matched by only learning from books and in halls of fame. 
The appealing saga brings out the lessons, that learning is a lifelong process and that surmounting challenges and perseverance lead to great personal satisfaction and mission accomplishment in life, which money cannot acquire. 

(The writer of the book review was the Former Deputy Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Army)

For the benefit of overseas readers we have arranged online purchase available from the below link:

You might also want to watch the video’s below:

Speech by Dr Anula Wijesundere

Charith, the soldier – A differently abled War Hero

Speech by Mr Somasundaram Skandakumar



Presentation of the book – THE EXTRA MILE to the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army

One thought on “The Extra Mile: Memories of a fulfilling experience during the civil war

  1. When your heart is pure & true, bravery of victims lift you up to overcome short comings. Selfless service, Courage, Hard work, Maximise of meager resources, equality of service, were & are the hall mark of the service you rendered to the Nation and to her Subjects.
    Nation’s gratitude to a proud son of Mother Lanka

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