Blog Your Blessings: From Baghdad with Love

This week's blessing is the best book I've read in a very long time that shed some light ona situation I have never quite understood....

It's no small task to build suspense--and maintain it until the last page--after you've spilled the beans. But that's exactly what Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman does in his 2006 international bestseller From Baghdad with Love.

Kopelman's memoir is set in Fallujah, Iraq, during the 2004 US-led invasion. Though the story advertises its happy ending before it begins, the setting alone is enough to tell you getting there is going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride. There's no way of knowing what's around the corner; only that there is a corner to turn.

When Marines enter an abandoned house, they hear a strange noise and are ready to open fire. Instead, they find a fiesty puppy who makes his home in their hearts and sets Kopelman and his buddies on an obstacle course that doesn't end until Lava--the Marines name the dog after their battalion, the Lava Dogs--settles stateside.

The road from Iraq to California involves a vast network of people that includes reporters, officers, taxi drivers, vets, dog food executives.... Ironically, many of them have worked together more than once before to help other soldiers get their adopted pets home--this, despite military regulations that that are clearly stated and that everybody knows that forbid soldiers from adopting pets. There is even an organization or two set up for this very purpose. 

Which you have to love. The irony is beautiful. To be an effective soldier, you have to put aside that warm, fuzzy side of yourself and focus on the task at hand; to survive war at all, you need to cleave to all that is warm, sensitive true and love it well. That network of people pulling together to reunite soldiers with their pets knows that as well as the soldiers know that.

We all know that, right? 

Maybe not. Kopelman points out that there were soliders available to shoot, bury, or drown dogs in the interest of enforcing policy. 

How the hell could you?

But then, how do you worry about stray cats and dogs when there's a war on, when people are injured, sick, hungry, and desperate? Why all this for a dog?

In the final chapter as Kopelman recounts his reunion with his dog at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, he describes embracing a loving, hearty friend with whom he shares some ineffable understanding, a reporter asked him the very question. "Why wasn't my time spent people instead of a puppy?" Kopelman recounts.

His reply: "I don't know, and I don't care, but at least I saved something."

From Baghdad with Love was for me a way into Iraq. I learned a little about what motivates a Marine to be a Marine, to go to places like Iraq, to serve as they do. Kopelman took me down some pretty horrifying streets, threw open the doors to brutality I couldn't not have imagined, and threw some sense around it. 

Ultimately, every choice comes down to being human. That's something to think about.

The book was a blessing this week. It taught me plenty. 


  1. That sounds like a very interesting book. Kopelman raises some good questions apparently.
    Thanks for stopping by my site on Wednesday when I had questions about the mystery plant in my yard. Today I’ve posted what I believe is the answer with details:

  2. Animals represent and give unconditional (and probably, safe) love - something I think may be lacking in a war zone, since it's hard to find most places.

  3. sounds like an intense book-one that your students could get into discussing...

  4. I had heard about this story on the news. I did not know there was a book about it.

  5. I have seen the book-now I know it's a good read-thanks!

  6. And as always, you pass your learning on and teach us.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Should put in on my reading list, perhaps.

    Hope you are well.

  8. Thanks for promoting that book. Sounds just the type of book I like. Must look out for it.

  9. You got me curious. I am going to read that book, thanks for the wonderful review.

  10. Animals need to have a place in this world with people. Since we are taking their space we need to make life so they can come closer to us and be welcomed instead of shunned.
    Dogs horses even goats have been known to be active in war and war like settings with soldiers.
    There are many stories where an animal shelters its owner at the expense of its own life.Even cats bring home their mice and lay them at your feet as a reward for feeding and taking care of them.They see it as pulling their load for the pack.
    I am against the killing of animals The only reason I can see them doing this is because an animal, like a person, may come and bring an explosive with it.
    In Arab countries,suicide bombings are Godly.

  11. You blog always shares so much ( but this touched me espeically deeply for a number of reasons. Reading this post is my blessing for today!

  12. Wow. And then the military is surprised when soldiers have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. Everybody needs puppies and kitties.

  13. Sounds like a very interesting book! I will add it to my must-read list. Happy Mothers Day! I hope you have a wonderful day :)

  14. Wow, sounds like a fascinating book... going from emotion to emotion to be sure! I'll steal it from Sue when she's done! Thanks for bringing it to attention!

  15. Finding a puppy in the middle of all the death and destruction was a blessing, reminding the soldiers of what was good and wholesome in themselves. War is hell and I think the pup was probably an angel.

    Late for BYBS

  16. He did a great job of humanizing these faceless Marines that you see on the news every night. Excellent review Sandy!


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