Opening line:"I don't remember exactly when I got to the house that served as our command post in the northwest sector of Fallujah, and I don't remember exactly how I got there."
This was a surprisingly great read that held me captivated from beginning to end and I have been recommending it like crazy to all my friends.FROM BAGHDAD WITH LOVE tells the heartwarming and somewhat heartbreaking story of a starving abandoned puppy named Lava and the hardened marine who along with wartime journalists, Iraqi citizens and many, many others saved him from certain death on the bombed out streets of Iraq and eventually got him onto US soil.
Well written and containing 8 pages of photographs there is no secret to Lava's outcome but this is still an utterly fascinating story. Lava is initially discovered by the Third Marines unit known as The Lava Dogs when they storm an abandoned house in Fallujah Iraq and almost shoot him. Then not knowing what to do with the 5 week old puppy and forbidden by military law to keep pets the marines begin feeding and caring for the dog as they set up a command center in the abandoned house. Lava's presence allows the soldiers a pass from reality, a small piece of sweetness and normalcy in their daily hell and something else to think about other than getting killed. Has anybody fed the dog today? There are some touching scenes as we witness these big tough military men falling apart, talking in baby talk and playing with the puppy as he pees on their boots and destroys their belongings and they think he's cute.
Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is eventually adopted by Lava who chooses his boots to sleep in. Subsequently several scenes play out like a movie as Lava is hidden and moved between red and green military zones and finally crated as they attempt to drive him across the Jordanian border. The last few chapters are really exciting, and even though you know the outcome you will find yourself wondering, how exactly are they going to pull this off?
I learned a surprising amount about the war in Iraq reading this book and really got a feel for what the soldiers go through on a daily basis living in a war zone. Just how hard it must be to maintain your sanity amidst all the chaos and death. The ending is just WOW and had me close to tears, as it's Lava who ultimately saves one marine from the emotional ravages of war. This is a book that I can highly recommend, especially if you're a dog lover in addition you'll get to learn a little something about a war that most of us barely notice anymore when the images and numbers flash past on our TV screens.
Here's a great video where Jay talks about finding Lava