Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
by Donovan Campbell
March 10, 2009
Random House
336 pages

In March 2004, 2nd Lieutenant Donovan Campbell and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (2/4) were shipped to Ramadi, Iraq for a six-month deployment. Lieutenant Campbell commanded the 1st Platoon of G (Golf) Company also known as Joker One. Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhoodis the title of the first book by Donovan Campbell. Mr. Campbell describes his first days with Golf Company and the training he and his Marines went through prior to their deployment.

The bulk of the book details life in Ramadi for Joker One. Six months of constant patrolling, guarding and searching, with an almost daily dose of combat. In the beginning Lt. Campbell believed in the mission, as time went on and the casualties mounted his primary concern became protecting his Marines. By the end, he had come to accept that his Marines were going to be hurt every time they left their compound.

Reading this book brings several questions to mind. The most important of which is why have American soldiers and Marines been sent to die in Iraq. A quote by Mr. Campbell seems to sum up the American experience in Iraq, “…every decision that we made in this crazy country always seemed a difficult choice between bad and worse and that nothing ever turned out quite the way we hoped.” (201)

Lt. Campbell and his Marines volunteered to go to war and they suffered physical and psychological trauma because of it. They performed heroic deeds while attempting to stabilize a country that did not want them there. We sound not allow our young men to suffer such injuries for trivial causes. It should only be in cases of true national emergency or actual national defense that we ask this of them rather then to make some small point foreign policy point.

Before America’s leaders decide to send American troops to impose their particular vision of how the world should be, they should read the story of Joker One. American soldiers and Marines are not pawns on a chessboard and should not be treated as such. Donovan Campbell and his Marines are probably better then we, as Americans, deserve.

If you have any interest in the American military or small unit actions in the war in Iraq I would recommend this book. This review is based on an advance copy.