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Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    Could NOT put this book down. Fantastic story - well done and well said.

    If you want a compelling, honest look at the war on terror in Iraq - you need to buy this book. The author leaves out all the political BS, and focuses on his men and all that happened to them during their tour. Great story - the flow was great and it kept me turning the pages like no book has in quite a while. These guys are all heroes by anyone's measure.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2008

    Love triumphs over fear

    This is a Marine platoon leader's account of some of the most difficult fighting in Iraq during the dark days of the spring and summer of 2004. Much has been said about how a later surge of additional troops and more aggressive tactics turned the tide in Iraq. Although the author doesn't say so directly, this book suggests other reasons.<BR/><BR/>History has not been kind to the Iraqi people. Saddam regarded Hitler and Stalin as role models. His secret police kept every Iraqi living in terror. No one was safe. When he saw members of his own family as a threat, he murdered them. When he believed religious and ethnic groups were a danger to his rule, he turned to genocide. He was the sort of brutal dictator only a film maker like Michael Moore could love.<BR/><BR/>It was into that bubbling caldron of distrust and anger that the men of Lt. Donovan Campbell's platoon stepped in March of 2004. Their initial efforts to establish friendships got them nowhere. They would fight and perhaps die without Iraqi help. <BR/><BR/>Nothing illustrates that better than an event that took place on May 27, 2004, when Lt. Campbell was ordered to take an inspection team to check out work at a school. As they were leaving, the enemy launched a RPG (rocket propelled grenade). It missed them and exploded in a group of small children, scattering the bodies of wounded and dying children in all directions. <BR/><BR/>Lt. Campbell faced a difficult choice. His small force could quickly be out-gunned. Proper military tactics said they should leave. Instead, he stayed, calling in two other squads. They give what aid they could until Iraqi ambulances arrived. It was then that they ran headlong into Iraqi fears. People in the neighborhood would not even let someone into their homes to call ambulances. Their lives were that dominated by fear. It was in the battle that followed that the only man under Campbell's direct command died, Lance Corporal Todd Bolding, who had both his legs amputated by a RPG.<BR/><BR/>Eventually all that suffering affected Lt. Campbell. He called the first part of his book "Eager" to describe his zeal to test himself in combat. Six months later, he was utterly burned out. The fifth and last part of the book is titled "Tired," to describe just how exhausted he had become as his platoon approached its final weeks in Iraq. It was at that point that his men took over, doing what he could no longer do. As he put it, "They loved one another and their mission--the people of Ramadi--in a way that I didn't fully appreciate until just a few days before we left the city." He closes out his description of their combat experience with these moving words.<BR/><BR/>"So that was how we loved those who hated us; blessed those who persecuted us; daily laid down our lives for our neighbors. No matter what we felt, we tried to demonstrate love though our daily actions. Now I understand more about what it means to truly love, and what it means to love your neighbor--how you can do it even when your neighbor literally tries to kill you."<BR/><BR/>Though you're unlikely to read about it from any of our nation's self-appointed sneering class, it was that willingness to love in the midst of hatred that opened up the hearts of Iraqis and gave them the courage to stand up and begin to rebuild their nation. Before the Surge, there were the brave and loving men of Joker One. That's why this is a book that you must read.<BR/><BR/>--Michael W. Perry. editor of Dachau Liberated

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2008

    A true story detailing the harsh realities of the front lines of the war in Iraq

    Describing Joker One by Donovan Campbell in one word is a difficult task but if forced to do so the word would be poignant. Joker One is the story of the individual Marines who comprised one of the platoon¿s deployed to fight in Iraq. More than a story about a war, Campbell slaps the ¿Human Condition¿ on the face of the Iraqi War, and for good measure nail guns it in place. His story is one that needed to be told, not to sway your opinion of whether the United States occupation of Iraq is justified, but rather to put names and faces to the individuals who served their country. It doesn¿t matter whether you are pro or anti war what matters is that you understand the struggles of the individuals involved. The men in this story didn¿t wage the war but rather carried out their mission with courage, bravado, and outright selfless determination. If you are not touched by the words between the bindings of this book than I might suggest you send out a search party for your soul.<BR/><BR/>The Stateside news reports of the Iraqi War have been meaningless rhetoric up to this point. We have been fed the gruesome details of body counts and have seen the anti-American sentiments of the Iraqi people, but up until the story of Joker One these stories have been a benign representation of the actual happenings in Iraq. We haven¿t been told the stories of the ¿so-called¿ US allies who when forced with the decision of standing up for their own free society or their own mortality immediately switch their alliances and begin to open fire on our troops. Nor have we seen firsthand, the cowardly Iraqi insurgent¿s complete disregard of their own countrymen as they use them as human shields as a means to an end. <BR/><BR/>Some soldiers have returned to the States battered, beaten, and broken both physically and mentally. Others have returned Stateside in wooden boxes draped with the United States flag. Campbell has identified these soldiers by name. Soldiers like you and I who have families, dreams, and ambitions now which regardless of injury or death have become severely altered by their mere participation in the ugliest form of human interaction. <BR/><BR/>Lieutenant Campbell takes this opportunity to provide the reader a front row seat into the daily struggles of his platoon. It would have been easy for him to shed the spotlight directly upon himself in this story; in order to boost his own ego. But to the contrary, Campbell highlights the extraordinary camaraderie of the men under his charge. Instead of highlighting his successes, he focuses on the successes of his men and points out his errors in judgment. He continually second guesses the split-second decisions he was forced to make. If only I had done X rather than Y, things might have been different; is the common theme of his thought process.<BR/><BR/>Joker One reads like an action packed Major Motion Picture. I had to constantly remind myself that I was reading a true story and not a piece of fiction dreamed up by some overly imaginative author hammering away at the keys of his or her word processor. <BR/><BR/>Joker One is so vivid and alive with detail that it hits the reader in the solar plexus with unrelenting force. Thanks to Lieutenant Campbell, here is to the soldiers of Joker One, Semper Fi!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2015

    This book is an excellent read that will make you laugh, cry,

    This book is an excellent read that will make you laugh, cry, be awed, be horrified, and will (if not already) be thankful that men like those in Joker One exist. You can read and see how the relationship between Donovan Campbell and his men grew from pre deployment, deployment and post deployment. I am a reader of books on the military and military history. This books is one of the few that gives the reader a description of what it is like to live day after day in a war zone

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2014


    Great and moving story told directly from the ground. Just shows what it takes to be a leader, especially one in the world's finest fighting force.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2013

    The Magnificent Bastards

    I served with 2/4 during the Battle of Ramadi, and this book is an excellent account of the events that occurred during our deployment. Thank you Donavan Campbell for telling our story. Semper Fi Bastard!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2012

    EXCELLENT BOOK..... VERY ACCURATE Mr. Campbell holds back no pu


    Mr. Campbell holds back no punches in describing the details of his time in the Marine Corps and his time In Ramadi. Being a former Marine myself I can say his accounts are extremely accurate, as to the thoughts and fears experienced in those environments. My hat is off to you Lt. Campbell for telling the story of you and your men. All too often millions of stories just like this one go untold. Lt. Campbell OUTSTANDING JOB&hellip;. SEMPER FI

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  • Posted May 19, 2012

    Riveting Read

    Hard to disagree with most of the other reviews. I looked forward to go to bed early just so I had more time to read this book. Great writing style. Too bad for us readers Donovan Campbell is a civilian now and unlikely to find himself in a situation as exciting as Iraq again. He is a good author, but don't think even he could make working at Pepsico as intense a story as leading a platoon in war. Thanks for your service.

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  • Posted August 28, 2011

    Truly a Great Book

    Well written. Good account of the true sacrifice of US Marines and other armed forces. Thank you for your service!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2011

    A MUST READ for Military History

    This was a great book. I couldn't put it down. I don't want to give it away...just read it!!

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Great Read

    One of, if not the best books I have read on the wars in Iraq.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    Awsome account of the war and a Platoons ins and outs from their leader.

    I could not put this book down. By the end of the book you really started to get attached to the men and what they where going thru. The insight of the brutal war zone really got to me. God Bless the Armed Forces and everything they do .

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    A Must Read

    Excellent on all accounts.

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  • Posted August 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific book.

    The author honors his brothers with this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    By Far One of the BEST!!!

    This memoir has got to be one of the best ones I have read about Iraq/Afghanistan. It made me cry, laugh, and at times upset. Really brings you into what our soldiers experience while fighting over there and give the reader a restored appreciation for what our soldier are enduring over there! A must read for anyone who whats a gritty truthful look at the war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    A must read for those of you interested in true historical accounts

    I bought Joker One simply because it was on the 'history' shelf at B & N. I had not heard nor read any reviews on the book, but when I find a book on the war in Iraq I usually grab it. When I finally got around to reading Joker One I could not put it down. The writing is superb, and if you have previously led men in combat, the book re-ignites all of the memories (both good and bad) that have laid dormant for years. Do yourself a favor and read Joker One.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2009

    Great Book

    This book is one of the best military books I have read. It tells the story of their struggles and shows what it truly is like to be a Marine platoon leader. It describes the emotions one feels in the battlefield and how close you get to the Marines with you. I recommend to anyone who likes military books.

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  • Posted August 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    For those that have had the honor of swerving their country this is a must. For those that have never had that honor, this is what it is like.

    This is not a political book, it is not for, nor against the war, but a story of those that serve. It describes their triumps, and hardships, the horrors they see and the "fun" they have. The descripttions of the individuals is so very good, it brings back memories of those we have known. It tells of the true heroes and those that are "less" than perfect.

    Many times during the book I was flooded with memories of leading a Marine rifle platoon in combat. The conditions, the thrills, fears, disappointments, and the great feeling of "completeing the missions, and looking out for the wellfare of your men," is so accurately presented.

    I hated to see the book end. God bless the men in this book, and all like them.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    War Is Not Tidy

    I read almost anything military I can put my hand on, and this has to be close to the top of the list. Campbell strikes a wonderful balance between the dull days and those of agonizing duress. He makes no bones about the reality that some officers are less able than others to conduct war effectively and expresses the true veteran's respect for the Non-Coms in each outfit who truly "keep things running." This is a reality check from someone who has been there and a book that should be read thoughtfully by every American, if for no other reason than to remind us how grateful we should be for the men and women in the military.

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  • Posted June 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Absolutely Capitvating!

    I picked up this book after hearing a couple of my favorite news commentators recommending it. I couldn't put it down. Donovan Campbell sheds light on what actually went down in his operations in Iraq. His loyalty to his men, and his personal emotional breaking points really hit home for anyone that loves this country.

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