Local Iraq war vet named in memoirs
Decorated Iraq war veteran and Carson City Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Derrick Kepler is mentioned in “Joker One,” memoir written by Kepler’s platoon leader.
Lt. Donovan Campbell wrote about the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment’s seven-month deployment in 2004 to Anbar, Iraq.
While mentioned fleetingly in reference to a kiddy pool the Marines had set up during a brief respite after weeks of firefight, Kepler’s full impact on his platoon and lieutenant is brought to light on page 263 of the book.
Pinned down by friendly fire from a U.S. helicopter unaware of their position, Kepler and the men in his squad could only lie on the bottom floor of the house they were in and pray they’d survive, Donovan wrote.
Incensed by the circumstances, and hearing the chopper rotors coming in for a second round, Kepler refused to wait.
“Rising from where he lay on the ground, Lance Corporal Kepler screamed ‘f*** this’ and began searching for a smoke grenade. As the rest of the squad watched … Kepler ripped a smoke marker off the nearest Marine and ran up the back stairs to the second floor …
“Then as the guns opened up on the house, Kepler climbed out (a window) …
“Even as the bricks next to him ripped apart in a solid line from floor to ceiling, he popped the marker and tossed it on the roof.”
The chopper pilots saw the signal and called over the radio: “Cobra One, I’ve got smoke on the roof we’re hitting. Abort, Cobra One! Abort! There are friendlies down there.”
For the bravery he exhibited, Kepler received the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V for valor.
Before the memoirs were published, Campbell sent the men in his platoon a transcript of the book, Kepler said Thursday.
He read the transcript then, and has now almost finished the novel.
“I think he did a great job with it. He had the utmost respect from all of us,” Kepler said. “It’s weird reading it. When you know (something bad’s) coming next, it kind of gives you a little bit of an uncomfortable feeling. But overall, it’s definitely accurate.”
A 2003 graduate of Douglas High School, Kepler, 24, enlisted in the Marine Corps on a delayed entry program when he was 17. He left for bootcamp two days after graduation.
After serving two tours in Iraq, four years in the Corps and being awarded the achievement medal and a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained during a mortar attack, Kepler returned to Nevada.
He lives in Carson City and works full-time for Sierra Oxygen and is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree through Western Nevada College.
Kepler recently completed the University Nevada, Reno Police Department Reserve Academy. He aspires to become a police officer.
A month ago, Kepler joined the ranks of the volunteer reserve deputy program with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. He was rapidly promoted to assistant squad leader, said Reserve Commander Tom Crawford.
“He is a success and is one of the most humble, modest, sincere and honest individuals I’ve met,” said Crawford. “(He) has quickly earned the respect of his fellow reserves and definitely the reserve administration.”
Last month for Memorial Day, Kepler reunited with 25 of his comrades at the home of a fallen friend, Marine Cpl. Rich O. Quill III, who died Feb 1, 2007, in Anbar.
There, the men of the 2/4 talked about Campbell’s memoirs. Kepler said everyone planned to read the book.
“There are certain things I miss (about the Corps). I definitely miss having my buddies around all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things that came out of it. I wouldn’t change the experience for the world.”