From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava

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A good dog pal just turned me on to this new book, From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava.

When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner and prepare to open fire.

What they find during the U.S.-led attack on the “most dangerous city on Earth,” however, is not an insurgent bent on revenge but a tiny puppy left behind when most of the city’s population fled before the bombing. Despite military law which forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea him with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco and fill him up on MREs.

Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of Lava from Iraq and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.

From hardened Marines, to war-time journalists, to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death and war from a mangy, little flea-ridden refugee.

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The author, Jay Kopelman, 46, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of the University of Miami, he began his military career in the U.S. Navy in 1985. He transferred to the Marine Corps in 1992, where he trained to become a forward air controller and earned his gold naval parachutist wings while assigned to 1st Air/Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.

In 1996, Jay left active duty to pursue opportunities in the Internet and financial services industries. He stayed active in the Marine Corps Reserve, and was recalled to active duty after September 11. During his career, Jay has made multiple overseas deployments to Okinawa, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, and twice to Iraq, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

In September 2004, as the Special Operations Forces Liaison Officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Jay deployed to Iraq to train the Iraqi Special Forces. In October, he was assigned as the liaison officer to an Iraqi Army battalion, and in November they entered Fallujah to battle insurgents for control of the city. It was there that he met and adopted Lava, a five week old puppy abandoned during the days before the invasion.

Following his return to the United States, based on his experiences in Iraq, Jay was asked to help train the Marines who would return to Iraq as advisors to the Iraqi armed forces and police. He currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for advisor training at I MEF.

Jay contributes his time and Lava’s name recognition to the Helen Woodward Animal Center and Canine Companions for Independence to help raise awareness and money for abandoned and assistance animals. He also recently served on the board of directors of the Enduring Freedom Killed In Action Fund, an organization that provides grants to survivors of military members who are killed in action in the war on terror, but whose benefits are “lost” in the system.

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