Today being Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to honor not just the veterans who have served our country with such faithfulness and sacrifice (thank you), but also some of the companion animals who have befriended and served their military humans with an inspiring faithfulness and sacrifice of their own.
Sadly, many of the dogs who served alongside military personnel in wars past were not allowed to return home with the soldiers, and were subsequently abandoned or even euthanized as this National Geographic video portrays, featuring tremendously moving interviews with Vietnam vets (shared by Peter Spiegel and Conservative Animal Advocate):
While military dogs thankfully now receive excellent medical treatment and can even be adopted after service, tragically the animals which service men and women frequently rescue and befriend while stationed in combat zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, may not return home with them. There have been a few happy exceptions, such as the story we shared a few years back of an Iraq vet's dog Ratchet, whom she had pulled from a burning trash pile as a puppy. Ratchet was eventually allowed to follow her home through the valiant efforts of SPCA's Operation Baghdad Pups, which works to reunite other vets with the four-legged friends who shared such important and difficult seasons in their lives.
Last Fall, I shared an article on my empathy-themed blog with those who detailing the too-often tragic and under-treated realities of post-traumatic stress disorder facing our troops and veterans, "Dealing with the Unseen Scars of War." The other day I bumped into a post on StubbyDog, a pit bull advocacy group, which features the very touching story of David Sharpe, a young veteran dealing with PTSD, who found unexpected hope and healing in adopting a pit bull (shared by Charla):
He’d come back from the war angry, violent, and out of control so he decided to get himself a fighter. A dog he could relate to. ... But Cheyenne turned out to be a teacher and a healer. Not a fighter.
As the post and Time video featured allude to, Sharpe has gone on to found an incredibly meaningful nonprofit called Pets2Vets, which "seeks healing and support for the 10-12 million men and women who suffer with some form of psychological condition and homes for the four-five million sheltered animals who are euthanized every year so that both may live in dignity as they embark on their journey together."
You won't want to miss this short but overjoyed clip of Gracie, an adopted shelter dog, greeting her owner Andy after he came home from being stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan (the accompanying commentary on the video from the serviceman is also well worth reading after watching):
And finally, please don't miss the incredibly personal and affecting post which we shared previously from friend Jamin McMahon, on the sparrows he cared for while serving with a medical military unit in Iraq.
(photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Looney, courtesy U.S. Navy, description: "Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of his MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam"; via Flickr user Beverly & Pack)