Thursday, June 4, 2009

Joker 1

On recommendation from the Acton blog I just finished reading "Joker 1" a story of Marine action in Ramadi during its most spasmodic and violent days in 2004. The story is told from the one Platoon leader's view.

I don't usually read such books but was taken in (and not disappointed) with Acton Blog's review:

This book is receiving considerable press attention and Campbell’s ability to convey love the way he does has to be a big reason for the popularity of the book. Campbell movingly says about his own Marines in the opening chapter, “And I hope and pray that whoever reads this story will know my men as I do, and that knowing them, they too might come to love them.”

Campbell’s account looks at the seven and a half months in which he serves as a platoon leader in some of the fiercest fighting of the Iraq war, which occurred in Ramadi in 2004. Before the Marine Corps, Campbell was an undergraduate at Princeton who spent a summer completing the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) because he thought it would look good on his resume. Campbell says he hated the entire program, and didn’t think twice about joining since he hadn’t taken any money from the Corps, and therefore didn’t owe them anything. He would ultimately change his mind however as graduation approached.

If love and leadership are recurrent themes, it is often discussed from a faith perspective, and Campbell is somebody who has thought seriously about his own faith and what that means for him and his men. Campbell talks about how before each combat mission he huddles up with his platoon for prayer, which often included reciting the twenty-third Psalm. “I had a responsibility to my men to provide for all their needs, and those included their spiritual as well as their material ones,” says Campbell. He also discusses some of his early thoughts on the prayer ritual before each mission:

Deep in my heart, I believed that prayer would work without fail, that if together Joker One prayed long and hard enough, God would spare us all from Mac’s fate [another Marine seriously wounded by a road side bomb]. What I know now, and which didn’t occur to me then, was that by praying as I prayed, and hoping what I hoped, and believing what I believed, I was effectively reducing God to a result-dispensing genie who, if just fed the proper incantations, would give the sincere petitioner (me) the exact outcome desired.

This book is masterful at tracing the growth and experience of Campbell’s theological progression just as it does concerning his leadership skills, decision making ability, and the moral questions he asks himself. Where prayer before was focused more on personal safety, He says it changed even more as the chaos and random violence surged. “To those who sought it, the prayer also provided some comfort that God was in control, that their lives had worth and meaning stemming from an absolute source,” says Campbell.


Leslie said...

Wow! Sounds like a must read!

*Thanks for coming to my blog and the follow!


eutychus said...

Quite a good read though, as you can imagine, rather intense at times.

alaiyo said...

Thanks for posting -- another book for my ever-growing list! :) --Beth

eutychus said...

alaiyo- Welcome back. Hadn't heard from you in a while on your (or anyone else's) blog. Kinda beginning to worry. Nice to see you up and about as it were.

alaiyo said...

I've been in TX visiting my parents, came back with a cold, and am beginning to emerge into the lovely realization that it's summer! Of course, that mainly means getting ready for fall semester, but at least there are NO PAPERS TO GRADE until the end of August! :)

eutychus said...

Texas! I knew I liked you. :-) I was born and raised here in Texas and except for a couple years overseas (and a few other deployments) have lived here all my life. I was born in San Angelo but live in Austin now.