The story of a Marine and the local donkey he adopted as a mascot for his troops.
Omaha World Herald editor Cate Folsom, Col. John Folsom’s wife, makes good use of her unique perspective. She begins with her husband’s arrival at a base near Fallujah, where he was in command of a logistics base. After a casual remark inspired by seeing a funny video of Marines chasing a donkey on another base, he woke one morning to discover that his troops had captured a donkey for him. Deciding it would be good for morale, he began to feed and care for the animal, dubbed “Smoke” after eating a lit cigarette. The donkey soon became a celebrity, greeting visiting dignitaries. Eventually, Smoke had a large international fandom and his own Facebook page. Folsom’s successor at the camp agreed to look after the donkey, but back home, Folsom had second thoughts. He contacted Terri Crisp of SPCA International, who had experience returning military service dogs to the United States. Thus began a complicated and often frustrating campaign to get Smoke home, a campaign that takes up much of the book. Finally, Folsom got the animal to Nebraska, where Smoke helped servicemen and women recovering from PTSD. The author’s closeness to the main source and her journalistic skills go a long way in bringing the story to life, with quotes from emails between the various parties. Readers learn about the importance of logistics to a war effort, which military books often downplay. The middle chapters go on—in too much detail—about the Byzantine negotiations required to bring a donkey from abroad into the U.S. It might have been more entertaining to hear more about Smoke’s high jinks and relationships with regular Marines and combat veterans than about the bureaucratic hoops everyone had to jump through to get him to Nebraska.
A good read for Marines and their families as well as animal lovers.