White Donkey

For  years this blog has tried to make the case that a comic book can be much more than “just” a comic book. For years this blog has tried to make the case that the industry would benefit if it employed, say, men like Terminal Lance creator Maximilian Uriarte. His New York Times bestseller, “The White Donkey,” should officially put that debate to rest.

“The White Donkey” is the story about Abe, a young man who left his small Oregon town in search of … something. He wasn’t quiet sure what he was looking for, but he thought he might find it in the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman. Abe, his best buddy Jesus Garcia, and the rest of their battalion are eventually deployed to Iraq. There is not much more I can say without spoiling the book other than to note its honesty rivals National Book Award Winner Redeployment,” by Phil Klay.

White Donkey Garcia

Every so often a critic comes to this blog and says something along the lines of, “You write about popular culture because you wanted to make it in Hollywood and never did.”

Yes, I did go to USC upon exiting the Army as a mechanized infantryman, but nothing could be further from the truth regarding professional regrets. In fact, a better personal attack would be that I exited the military prior to 9/11, didn’t have the courage to re-enlist after the Twin Towers fell, and that it still haunts me to this day.

There actually is some truth to that — I carried a ton of guilt with me for years after 9/11, which was exacerbated after a friend of mine, Hector Leija, had his head blown off in Iraq by a sniper. I disclose these details because readers need to know that everything that happens to “Abe” prior to his deployment is eerily close to what I experienced as a peace time soldier (i.e., it’s authentic). The characters, situations, and confrontations Abe navigates in many ways mirror my own.

I see myself in Abe (except the atheist part), and cannot help but wonder what I would be like had I stayed in military.

White Donkey leave

If you’re looking for a book with intelligence and emotional weight, then check out “The White Donkey.” If you’re looking for a book that can help civilians better understand returning war veterans, PTSD, and the other burdens they might be carrying, then Uriarte’s work is a must-read. One can only hope that he continues telling tales for many years to come.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

    1. “Don’t have money in the budget, but it sounds interesting. I’ll put it on my very long to read list.”

      I do occasionally give out free stuff rom time to time. My guess is that “The White Donkey” will be on the list sometime down the line. The moral of the story is: Keep reading. 😉 I like to offer the occasional “Thanks!” to long-time readers.

  1. We are so alike Doug.

    I enlisted in the Corps in ’97. I was scheduled to exit on April 28th 2001. I left for many reasons but the biggest was that I didn’t feel I was growing independently in the Marines, every thing is given to me, and I wanted to earn my way, rather than be spoon-fed and overwatched. But then there was 9/11, and I was getting married…I decided to stay out, at the time I figured it was going to be a very short war….

    In 2003, with my inactive nearly up, I decided to go back in…but during the time out I was diagnosed with Diabetes…They wouldn’t take me. It was rough, and I wish now that I had re-upped back in 2001. I felt like I let my comrades down….

    But honestly I’ve talked to many of these guys over the years, and they have never given me shit about it. In fact, whenever I start to whine about it I get a version of STFU, and a lecture on how I’m a Marine, and it doesn’t matter where I was or when I was, just that I was.

    Serving, even for a little while nets you a place of honor no one can take away from you. A great majority of people will never be able to say “I was where you were”. Those that may have done a little more tend not to look down on you from my experience…I met an SBD gunner (WWII era dive bomber) in Mississippi once, who invited me to his place to ride horses…all because I was a Marine, too. I tried to tell him that I am unworthy of the honor he gives me, but he would have none of it.

    I’ve lost friends too, and the guilt you feel, I share. But remember what your buddies think and feel too. The people who really matter will never look down on you. They know…you took the oath too. We know what we signed up for and what might happen…anytime, anyway, in peacetime and war.

    1. I’m not sure how much you know from what I’ve shared on the blog, but I enlisted in ’97 after I graduated from high school. I did 3 years and got out because I knew that if I reenlisted then I would probably be in for 20. The question became, “Well, is this what I was put on earth to do? Is this my purpose?” Ultimately, I felt as though my purpose was to be a writer and then I got out and worked my butt off to get into USC. I started dating my future wife, took out thousands of dollars in student loans, etc., and then was completely torn as to what I should do as Afghanistan and Iraq unfolded.

      You are right about battle buddies never really giving you crap about getting out. My friend James and others have never given me a hard time. There has never been a hint that they think less of me — despite their multiple deployments to the Middle East.

      Without getting into too many details, I always felt the need to prove myself intellectually because I slept through most of high school. I cared about my English and History classes, but didn’t do a darn thing if it was related to math or science. I’d come home and read books or write short stories… I was sort of the “black sheep” of my family, and I guess the “dumb infantryman” stereotype always bothered me. Once I proved to myself that I could hack it in the Army then I felt this overwhelming desire to prove myself academically. When I got out I just figured there wouldn’t be a war breaking out anytime soon that would involve the United States — and then 9/11 happened.

      The weird thing is, after I got my Master’s degree in Political Science I went to an Army recruiter in Washington, D.C. I wanted to go back in as Intelligence, but they told me that the contract I demanded (e.g., station of choice, Airborne School, Ranger School) wasn’t possible because it wasn’t my first enlistment. I told the recruiter that was BS and that if he could make it work to call me. I never heard back.

      I then tried to get into the FBI as a Special Agent. I got to Phase II testing and failed. I didn’t go back to take it a second time because I got the job at Heritage. Looking back on everything and how it all fell together perfectly, I can only conclude that God was very patient with me. I knew what I was meant to do, but I kept letting my own insecurities and regrets get in the way. It took me a very long time to make peace with my decision to leave the Army, but eventually it did happen.

  2. “For years this blog has tried to make the case that a comic book can be much more than “just” a comic book.”

    Yes! It’s an odd thing for me to have taken a sudden interest in, but I remember “truth, justice, and the American way,” and I remember boys, men, learning from comics books, developing character and values, building an interest in literature, myths, legends. Actually reading! Often it seems as if we’ve pulled the rug out from under boys and they’re growing up without those things today.

    When I was young some Christian group used to put out tracks, comic books, very graphic and real, but they were people’s actual testimonies, experiences. Everybody read them, atheists, Jewish kids, because they were so real, so true, they spoke to you.

    1. “Often it seems as if we’ve pulled the rug out from under boys and they’re growing up without those things today.”

      I think “pulling the rug out” is a good way to put it. I may have mentioned this before, but when I was a kid teachers told my mom that I should probably be on drugs for ADD. I didn’t have ADD — I was a normal boy with a ton of energy and a chip on his shoulder. Thank goodness my mom didn’t put me on drugs. Basic Training “cured” me of my so-called “ADD” right away. It turns out that I just needed an attitude adjustment.

      Was I a handful as a child? Yes. But just because I was a “spark plug” (as one teacher put it), it didn’t mean that I should have been administered drugs.

      There seems to be a concerted effort to culturally neuter boys. Any signs of overt “maleness” is sort of frowned upon in favor something more androgynous. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the vibe I get. It seems to have started in the 90s.

    2. “I think “pulling the rug out” is a good way to put it. I may have mentioned this before, but when I was a kid teachers told my mom that I should probably be on drugs for ADD. I didn’t have ADD — I was a normal boy with a ton of energy and a chip on his shoulder. Thank goodness my mom didn’t put me on drugs. Basic Training “cured” me of my so-called “ADD” right away. It turns out that I just needed an attitude adjustment.”

      I really believe that a lot of what people call “ADHD” is just normal childhood behavior. What kid WASN’T hyper at some point, or daydreamed during class? I know I did it, and guess what? I never had to be prescribed medication, and I turned out pretty good.

      My middle school principal was always harping on and on about how I was a “disturbed” kid who would spent most of my adult life in and out of prison. He also would’ve had me sent to juvenile hall, if he would’ve had his way. And all for defending myself against bullies, too. Luckily my folks didn’t let him have his way.

      “There seems to be a concerted effort to culturally neuter boys. Any signs of overt “maleness” is sort of frowned upon in favor something more androgynous. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the vibe I get. It seems to have started in the 90s.”

      I agree. It seems like their goal is to turn them into mindless, drug-addled zombies. They’re doing that to kids in general, but especially to boys. I remember classmates being prescribed Ritalin for things that can be described as normal childhood behavior. I can also remembering thinking, “There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just a little hyper. Aren’t we all?” My third grade teacher once told me that I was a “naughty boy” and that “naughty boys” end up in prison. She said that when topping over my desk in front of the class and making me clean it up. To this day, I’m amazed that nobody at the school noticed her obvious mental issues, which she projected onto me.

      Good review, by the way. It sounds like an interesting read.

    3. “My middle school principal was always harping on and on about how I was a ‘disturbed’ kid who would spent most of my adult life in and out of prison. […] My third grade teacher once told me that I was a ‘naughty boy’ and that ‘naughty boys’ end up in prison.”

      Your school seemed to have an unhealthy fixation on prison. 😉 I’m glad you proved them wrong.

      “Good review, by the way. It sounds like an interesting read.”

      Every so often I need something to cleanse away the goofiness that is The Amazing Spider-Man.

      Side note: I hope your book is going well. I think you said you were in the middle of typing it up.

      I spent most of today writing and I think I’m going to zonk out soon. I’m not sure if you saw the Neil deGrasse Tyson story where he claimed helicopters are like a “brick” when their engine goes out. When I saw that I laughed out loud because that is definitely not true. I have a helicopter crash scene in my book and learned about autorotation while I was researching how pilots survive engine loss. When I saw that someone called Tyson out on it I was like, “Yes! Thank you!” That guy is so smug.

  3. It is always the cost that keeps us counting long after we start taking learning numbers in school for granted. These days it’s more cost of all that we’ve bonded with, who we’ve learned from than what costs us food, gas, a wedding license, hospitals etc. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, but it’s your testimony, your regrets and your recommendations that inform the generations to come what kind of sacrifices we all make to safeguard our interests, sometimes it makes us braver and makes us defensive of our larger world, sometimes we have to settle for small bursts of courage that keep our own worlds together, the key is to always keep everyone in both worlds alive and anything that reminds you of both worlds goes a long way to unifying it.

  4. “Your school seemed to have an unhealthy fixation on prison.😉 I’m glad you proved them wrong.”

    Two different schools, actually. I went to a Lutheran school from Kindergarten through fifth grade, and then moved to where I currently live and attended public schools afterward.

    “Every so often I need something to cleanse away the goofiness that is The Amazing Spider-Man.”

    I’m glad you read it so I don’t have to. It sounds terrible. Seems like Slott’s borrowed convoluted story lines from the current (terrible) run of Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffat.

    “I hope your book is going well. I think you said you were in the middle of typing it up.”

    Right now, I’m typing up Chapter 14. It’s going well.

    “I spent most of today writing and I think I’m going to zonk out soon. I’m not sure if you saw the Neil deGrasse Tyson story where he claimed helicopters are like a “brick” when their engine goes out. When I saw that I laughed out loud because that is definitely not true. I have a helicopter crash scene in my book and learned about autorotation while I was researching how pilots survive engine loss. When I saw that someone called Tyson out on it I was like, “Yes! Thank you!” That guy is so smug.”

    No, I didn’t hear about it, but since it’s Tyson we’re talking about I’m not surprised. Breitbart did name him one of their “Scientists who are actually stupid” for a reason:

  5. I’ll have to add this book to my TBR list, thanks for spotlighting it!!

    And for what it’s worth, I too feel guilty for not doing enough after two tours because some of my buddies kept going back for more. It’s the nature of loyalty and brotherhood, separation from your fellow grunts is painful when they’re in harms way and you’re not their to watch their six.

    1. “I’ll have to add this book to my TBR list, thanks for spotlighting it!”

      I think you’ll enjoy it quite a bit. If it crosses your mind, then circle back after you’re done and let me know your thoughts. I’d like to hear your review.

    2. “Against my better judgement… I spent the $15 to buy the hardback. (Used was more expensive than Prime and the Kindle only saved me a dollar.)”

      If you end up not liking it, then let me know. Maybe I can find a way to make it up to you with a “Doug Prize.” 😉

      I can’t usually bring myself to go the Kindle route, although I should. I love having the physical book in my hand and using a real highlighter on my favorite passages.

    3. With my TBI, it’s easier to read on Kindle because I can magnify it. With graphic novels, I just don’t think Kindle is ready for it. I’ll dust of the magnifying glass and take my time reading it.

    4. “With my TBI, it’s easier to read on Kindle because I can magnify it. With graphic novels, I just don’t think Kindle is ready for it. I’ll dust of the magnifying glass and take my time reading it.”

      Gotcha. We’ll, if you ever are nominated for a “Doug Prize,” then just set up a PayPal account and I will quickly send over cash for said Kindle version of the book giveaway.

      My “Magic 8 Ball” says that it is highly likely that you will be offered one in the very near future…

    5. Wow, thank you. I wasn’t expecting that, mostly just celebrating grunt to grunt about getting the readin on!! See, take THAT First Sergeant! I ain’t no idjiot after all!

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