I began a new bedside reading book last night, Joker One. It is the story one of one of the most storied platoons in recent Marine history. Over the course of seven months in 2004, in the city of Ramadi, Iraq, this platoon was engaged in combat every single day. Consider that. No days off. No breaks. Seven months of fierce war. One company that was not even at full strength, and 350,000 residents with insurgents sprinkled throughout.
After just 30 pages last night, I am riveted. My discipline to get to sleep was the only thing overcoming staying up all night and reading this book. Donovan Campbell, the leader of the platoon Joker One, is the author. After recounting a firefight that starts off the book, he confirmed the feelings of my grandfather that I posted about yesterday with these paragraphs:
Now, nearly three years after that August day, those Marines and I have long since parted ways. Our time together in Iraq seems like someone else’s story, for there’s nothing in America even remotely similar to what we experienced overseas, nothing that reminds us of what we suffered and achieved together. And none of us have really been able to tell that story, not fully, not even to our families, because each small telling takes a personal toll. No one wants to suffer the pain of trying to explain the unexplainable to those who rarely have either the time or the desire to comprehend. So, many of us have simply packed our war away and tried hard to fit into normalcy by ingnoring that time in our lives.
But our story is an important one, and I believe it’s worth telling truthfully and completely no matter what the cost…But it’s so hard to tell the truth, because telling means dragging up painful memories, opening doors that you thought had closed, and revisiting a past you hoped you had put behind you. However, I think that someone needs to do it, and I was the leader, so the responsibility falls to me.
I am grateful he is willing to pay the price to tell this story. I am grateful he is willing to share that it is painful. I am looking forward to learning from him, and how I can honor his story, and stories like it, and the soldiers who tell them.
Check it out here.