Smoke the Donkey | About Smoke The Donkey
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Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Potomac Books (April 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1612348114
ISBN-13: 978-1612348117

About Smoke The Donkey

Millions of people around the world were introduced to Smoke The Donkey in May 2011 as he was transported from Iraq to reunite with his wartime buddy in Nebraska. Now comes the book that tells the rest of their story, which will enthrall families, animal lovers and anyone with military connections.


This is a love story, the unlikely love story of a U.S. Marine from Nebraska and a donkey from Iraq who forged a bond that couldn’t be broken by war, distance or bureaucracy. In the tradition of “Marley & Me,” “War Horse” and, yes, even a bit of “Francis the Talking Mule,” Smoke’s journey from wandering beast of burden to international celebrity is as gripping as it is improbable.


The story begins on a U.S. military base near Fallujah, when Colonel John Folsom meets the little donkey after a general suggests it might be fun to get one. And it was. But Smoke quickly became so much more. A playmate. A parade leader. A way for lonely Marines stationed in Iraq to connect with their families back home through photos and gifts.


Eventually, Smoke would make a triumphant appearance at the Pentagon, gather friends on Facebook, gain an international following through news stories in a dozen languages and television appearances around the world, and charm everyone he met as he marched in the New York City Veterans Day Parade.


But all that lay ahead and unknown. First came, as it does for so many love affairs, a breakup. Folsom rotated home, and Smoke stayed behind. When retirement rolled around, the colonel began reflecting on his long and colorful career, from the bombing of the Beirut barracks in 1983 to his tours of duty in Iraq after 9/11. As he thought about all the Marines he had served with, he began to wonder about Smoke. Before long he was working to reunite with his friend.


And that’s when the tale really gets interesting. For nine months, Folsom overcame obstacle after obstacle. First, an Iraqi sheik who controlled Smoke’s fate demanded thousands of dollars in tribute. After working past that, Folsom enlisted the aid of a foreign correspondent and local Iraqis to track down Smoke, who was wandering free on the sheik’s property.


With Smoke finally in hand, an animal advocacy group embraced the task of reuniting him with Folsom. But it took an international team and the aid of the U.S. Embassy to get the donkey out of Iraq.


Turkey reluctantly let the donkey cross the border, but getting him out of Turkey proved even tougher. In a series of maneuvers that would have impressed Graham Greene, Folsom flew overseas, grew a beard to help conceal his Western origin and enlisted the aid of seemingly everyone from the U.S. State Department to the Agriculture Department, the German government and, of course, the Marines. “Our Donkey in Istanbul” finally headed to the United States.


Here, the once simple farm animal’s life was transformed. He palled around with polo ponies, raised money for less fortunate donkeys, provided mental health support for service men and women and, just by being himself, brought joy and inspiration everywhere.