Meeting Donovan Campbell, Author of Joker One

Th3 Maelstr0m

Verified Military
Jan 19, 2010
Last night Donovan Campbell, the author of Joker One, visited my college to talk about his book, some lessons he's learned, take some Q&A, and do a short book signing.
He started out with a brief overview of himself, from his first to deployments to Iraq (the second of which is what Joker One is about) to getting recalled to Afghanistan to work with SF, & how it all affected him. After that he got into some of the lessons he's learned that were applicable to the average college kid. They were all "basic" good points (dont time your time for granted, figure out what you believe in and stand by it, etc.) but what really drove them home was the examples he used, and the emotion he expressed when giving those examples. You can tell he is absolutely devoted to his men. He started off writing Joker One for his men (it was never going to be a book) b/c he felt bad that he did not write them up for as many awards as they deserved, & his men could not explain to their loved ones what they saw & experienced. So he wrote the book simply to give to his men so they can show their loved ones, & hopefully they would get some sort of understanding.
I have rarely seen a leader (enlisted or officer) who cares so much about his men. For example, one girl asked during Q&A what it was like coming home. He said the best thing was that when everyone was released to their families, instead of going straight to a hotel or leaving ASAP (he started chocking up at this point) like most Marines do, all of his men introduced their families to him. Tears were being shed across the audience at that one.
Another great point he made was when he was asked "how do you recommend I thank a veteran returning home?" He said something along the lines of "I think people should do more than just through a ribbon on the back of their car. If you really want to thank a veteran, serve your country and your fellow man on the homefront with the same selflessness that they do on the battlefield. You all have a great college and great opportunities that those men cannot experience right now, and some will never get to experience. Don't take it for granted."
Another thing he mentioned while talking about leadership is that one of the biggest traits missing from leaders both in and out of the military, is humility/ selflessness. He said something along the lines of "A leader has to suppress that urge that every man feels: to serve himself. And this can be very hard at times. But you have to put your values first, your men second, and your personal welfare a very distant third. You need those values, b/c men will not follow someone that does not stand for anything. And you need to serve your men. servant leadership is almost a forgotten thing these days. But it's the most effective type of leadership, and the most crucial."
I think the thing that got me the most, however, was this: I read the book. I thought it was an amazing tale of brotherhood and espirit de corps. We (at least I did) tend to look at these men as demigods, someone that walks beyond us or on a higher plane, and in some ways they do. But they are also human. He hinted at the struggles of getting out and adjusting, and while most of the audience did not notice, I did (I suppose since I got out recently as well). I think the big thing that got me is that this man is going through the same issues I see many combat vets (myself included) go through. The thing that sets him apart though (that higher plane) is that he doesnt let it debilitate him (like many all too often do). He experiences the loneliness, the remorse, etc. but he never lets it hold him back from being a great husband, father, or citizen.
I just figured Id share a little bit about the whole experience. I came away a better man for seeing & meeting him, & I wish him the best.