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From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by [Kopelman, Jay, Roth, Melinda]
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Editorial Reviews Review

In From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava, Jay Kopelman tells a story that is both tender and thought-provoking--candidly portraying the ugly conditions in wartime Iraq, while also describing his (and his fellow Marines') growing attachment to a scruffy stray puppy.
Here Jay Kopelman answers a few questions about his aspirations as a writer, and the effect his book has had on readers.

Questions for Jay Kopelman Before you met Lava and had this experience smuggling him out of Iraq, did you ever have ambitions to write a book?

Jay Kopelman: Yes, I'd considered writing a book previously and have started--but not finished--a novel. Not surprisingly, it's a military murder mystery. And I'm still hoping to get it published. I've also been offered a deal by my publisher to write another book. So I guess I'm now officially an author. How has the military responded to it given that you broke a number of rules during your adventure with Lava?

Jay Kopelman: I've actually not had any real feedback from the military establishment. In fact, mostly I only get the good-natured ribbing from my contemporaries about how much money I'll make or about who will play me in the movie. When the story first broke a year and a half ago, one of the generals jokingly asked me for an autograph, and I've given the previous commanding general for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force a signed galley. So, thus far, there’s been nothing "official" to which I've had to respond. We'll see what happens now that the book is released and there's going to be a media blitz surrounding the book. What you have to remember, though, is that I really didn't use military assets to get Lava home. Nor did I ever endanger anyone in the military while doing so. In the book, you say that you would like it if it can bring hope to people who've lost loved ones in Iraq by showing them how something positive can come out of a brutal situation. Have you heard from people that your book has made them feel better?

Jay Kopelman: I've not yet heard from anyone who’s lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I have heard from a counselor who works with the returning Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, who said she finds the story so very positive and helpful. She's planning to come to the book signing there. I also got an e-mail from a Marine who said that while her unit was in Iraq, they adopted a puppy and tried to bring it home, but he was ultimately put down. She says that the Marines "remember how Charlie the dog helped us. Charlie will always be loved. During a time when we were far from home that dog made us smile." So, I suppose Lava's story does help people remember and gives them hope. I’ve also heard from people who appreciate my candor describing the conditions in Iraq.

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From Publishers Weekly

The news from Iraq keeps getting grimmer, but Iraq veteran Kopelman and journalist Roth (The Man Who Talks to Dogs) tell a tale of radiant joy about Kopelman's efforts to safely transport Lava, the stray dog his Marine unit found in the wreckage of Fallujah, back to the U.S. Though the premise sounds cloying, Kopelman and Roth eschew sentimentality. They don't hesitate to detail the corruption of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. military bureaucracy or the extreme hardships of the Iraqi people. Kopelman's nagging qualms about keeping the dog in violation of military orders throw into relief his efforts to repress his guilt over working so hard to save a dog amid so much human suffering. Most bracing are the frank descriptions of the war's moral vacuum, where terrified men and women—like the dogs that Iraqi insurgents strap with bombs and send charging into the enemy—are driven to commit unspeakable acts they cannot possibly understand. The story of Lava's journey out of Iraq is exciting, but it's to Kopelman and Roth's credit that it's not nearly as harrowing as the story of what the dog left behind. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1031 KB
  • Print Length: 187 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1599211823
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Publication Date: June 3, 2008
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CXDA59S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,089 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Mondor on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I received an advance copy of From Baghdad, With Love for review at I expected it to be a very heartwarming story about a soldier trying to save a stray puppy from Iraq and it certainly is that kind of book but I was surprised to find also an excellent war memoir here - the sort of book about Iraq that I don't think we have seen nearly enough of. The author is an active duty marine but he manages not to overly politicize his story - amazingly this is the sort of book that will appeal to those who both support and oppose the war. More than anything though it is just about how it is over there - how utterly insane it is - for US troops and civilians. On top of all of that it is also about why saving an animal in Iraq could mean so much to a soldier, something that I imagine few Americans realize is even happening everyday.

From Baghdad, With Love is a wonderful surprise and will equally appeal to both male and female readers. It is a sure bet for dog lovers but beyond that, for anyone trying to understand the impact the situation in Iraq is having on our soliders (and that means all of Americans), this should be viewed as critical reading.
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Format: Hardcover
When Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman walks down the hallway of a compound housing U.S. Marines in Fallujah, Iraq, he's startled by a noise. He shouts and raises his gun, his nerves still on edge from having just patrolled the dangerous streets of a city in the grip of violence. His adversary? A five-week-old stray puppy. "There's fear in his eyes despite the bravado," writes Kopelman in FROM BAGHDAD, WITH LOVE. "He's only a puppy, too young to know how to mask it, so I can see how bravery and terror trap him on all sides while testosterone and adrenaline compete in the meantime for every ounce of his attention. Recognize it right away."

The "little outlaw" has been named Lava in a nod to the nickname of his rescuers' regiment --- the 1st battalion, 3rd Marines, otherwise known as the Lava Dogs. In a breach of military policy, the Lava Dogs have been secretly caring for the tiny canine. "The newest grunt" has been "de-flead with kerosene, de-wormed with chewing tobacco, and pumped full of MREs [Meals Ready to Eat]."

Although the soldiers enjoy Lava's energetic company and take comfort in the routine of caring for him, Kopelman included, they avoid talking about what will become of the puppy when they move on. And then something happens. Perhaps it's when Lava falls asleep head first in Kopelman's boots. Or maybe it's the morning he wakes up to find Lava curled in a ball at the bottom of his sleeping bag. "Once I decide to save Lava," Kopelman says, "it becomes an unprogrammable mission I don't have the smarts to reassign or the guts to walk away from.
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Format: Hardcover
I was looking for a technical book and just happened to see the cover of this book. I'm a veteran, so I took a chance and bought it. I sat down at 8 p.m. with the book thinking I'd read myself to sleep. At 2 a.m. I finished the book. I laughed, cried, cringed and cried some more. What a great story. I was with the Marines for four years and totally know how "gungy" they are. I also know they are big "boys" with big hearts. I've recommended it to everyone I know.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the story of Lava, an Iraqi dog that many good people (and a handful of Marines) labored to save and provide a home for in America. But more so, it's the memoir of a Marine who disobeyed orders to save Lava's life. This isn't a dog book; it's a Marine book about a Marine at war with his own humanity.

It's honest and courageous. After reading this book I'd guess other Marines might not think highly of Jay Kopelman. But I really appreciate that he had the bravery and integrity to avoid sugar coating his direct disobedience of General Order 1-A. I was surprised (and impressed) that he admitted to placing his Marines (the Lava Dogs) into harms way to make a "milk run" to transport his dog to Baghdad. It was extremely irresponsible. It's not a choice I would've made (however, I did make some poor decisions during my tour I'm not proud of, and I wasn't there when Kopelman allowed his Marines to leave the gate), but I respect Kopelman for including this in the book. It shows he's telling a true story of the confusion of war and the reaction of the human condition, and that's worth something. This book is not a typical pro-war or anti-war propaganda piece.

As the book is now, I give it three stars. I disagree with some of the reviews here. There are parts that seem inconsistent in voice and tense, almost like two different people wrote it in sections rather than collaborating on the work in its entirety. If the first sixteen chapters looked like the remainder of the book and little parts here and there were cleaned up, I'd give this book four and a half or five stars.
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