In November 2004, Lt. Colonel Jay Kopelman entered Fallujah to battle insurgents for control of the city. It was there that he met and adopted Lava, a five week old puppy abandoned during the days before the invasion. Following his return to the United States, based on his experiences in Iraq, Jay was asked to help train the Marines who would return to Iraq as advisors to the Iraqi armed forces and police. By the end of his military service, Jay made multiple overseas deployments to Okinawa, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, and twice to Iraq, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
In 2008, he wrote From Baghdad to America: Life Lessons from a Dog Named Lava in which he discusses the emotional repercussions of war. Jay contributes his time and Lava's name recognition to the Helen Woodward Animal Center and Canine Companions for Independence to help raise awareness and money for abandoned and assistance animals. He also recently served on the board of directors of the Enduring Freedom Killed In Action Fund which provides grants to survivors of military members who are killed in action in the war on terror, but whose benefits are "lost" in the system. Jay donates a portion of the proceeds from his book From Baghdad to America to the Enduring Freedom Killed in Action Fund and the Freedom is Not Free Fund.