VxPoem ID: 26018
Posted: December 16th. 2006 1:33:13 AM
PART ONE SEMPER FIDO
Age Group: Adult
READERS DIGEST TRUE STORY:
Lava, the dog who got Jay Kopelman to let down his guard.
IN THIS STORY
One scruffy puppy in Baghdad. One hardened Marine who couldn't leave him behind.
Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman With Melinda Roth, from From Baghdad, With Love
From Reader's DigestDecember 2006
I remember being exhausted. The tiredness weighed more heavily on me than my 60-pound rucksack. As I walked through the door of our command post in northwest Fallujah after four days of dodging sniper fire and sleeping on the ground, all I could think about was sleep.
That's when I first saw Lava.
A sudden flash of something rolled toward me out of nowhere, shooting so much adrenaline into my wiring that I jumped back and slammed into a wall. A ball of fur skidded across the floor, halted at my boots, and whirled in circles around me with the torque of a windup toy. Though I could see it was only a puppy, I reached for my rifle and yelled.
It was November 2004. In the days before our march into Fallujah, U.S. warplanes had pounded the Iraqi city with cannon fire, rockets and bombs. The bombardment was so spectacular that I -- and the 10, 000 other Marines waiting on the outskirts -- doubted anyone would live through it. But plenty managed. Now, sniper fire came from nowhere, like screams from ghosts.
At the sound of my voice, the puppy looked up at me, raised his tail and started growling this baby-dog version of "I am about to kick your butt." Then he let loose with tiny war cries -- roo-roo-roo-rooo -- as he bounced up and down on stiff legs.
"Hey, " I said, bending down. "Hey. Calm down."
There was fear in his eyes despite the bravado. As I held my hand out toward him, he stopped barking. He sniffed around a little, which surprised me until I noticed how filthy my hands were after almost a week of not washing. He was smelling dirt and death on my skin.
I leaned forward, but he tore off down the hall. "Hey, come back."
The puppy looked back at me, ears high, pink tongue hanging out sideways from his mouth. I realized he wanted me to chase him. He was giving me the "I was never afraid of you" routine. So I scooped up the little guy. He squirmed and lapped at my face, which was blackened from explosive residue, soot from bombed-out buildings, and dust from hitting the ground.
"Where'd you come from?" I said.
The puppy acted like he had just jumped out from under the Christmas tree, but meanwhile I called my cool to attention. It's not allowed, Kopelman. Marines letting down their guard and getting friendly with the locals -- pretty girls, little kids, cute furry mammals -- it wasn't allowed. But he kept squirming and wiggling, and I liked the way he felt in my hands. I liked not caring about getting home or staying alive, and not feeling warped as a human being because I was fighting in a war.
Next Page: "Not Worth the Ammo"
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Author's Notes: POSTED BY LADYK
SATURDAY DECEMBER 16TH, 2006
Author's Location: Washington, Washington DC
More Poems: Ladykelshan has posted 484 additional poems- View them?
Author's Profile: To learn more about Ladykelshan - Click HERE
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