It’s no question that a dog is a man’s best friend. Their loyal companionship is undeniable and enriches the lives of their owners. While overseas, many soldiers forge bonds with both K9 companions and even local strays, many of which feed the pups with their own rations and protect them from the elements secretly in their barracks. Take in these incredible mutts and their heartwarming tails.
1. Afghanistan National Guard Team and Sheba
While serving in Afghanistan, a troop of National Guard soldiers found a 65-pound mixed breed dog who quickly became a mascot for the men after they found her wandering the base last January. Sheba was incredibly loyal from the start, joining them while out on patrol and chasing away other strays that threatened the soldiers. She gave birth to six pups that March and the troop were determined to take care of all of them. They nursed the dogs with beef jerky, using a lot of their own rations to keep them healthy. When the troop was set to return home, they were devastated to hear that they could not bring them home. Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to retrieving overseas dogs of war, raised enough money to bring all six pups and Sheba home. When they were reunited, the puppies were already six months old and two feet tall. Cadence, Rocky, Sarah, Jack, Buckeye, Breezy, and Harris all went home with members of the team. The team is now dedicated to training Sheba as a service dog. Now these seven dogs have a new lease on life with the soldiers who loved them from the start.
2. David Simpson and Robbie
Retired Air Force Sergeant David Simpson found a best friend in his military dog Robbie when the two served as patrol in Iraq for four years. Simpson left the military a year ago, but Robbie stayed, still working. When David found out that Robbie was set to retire in Germany, he immediately bought a $2,000 flight to go and retrieve him. Robbie recognized him immediately, and the happy twosome, now reunited, are looking forward to a new life together in the U.S.
Watch their tearful reunion here.
3. Sergeant Jason Bros and Cici
When Sgt. Jason Bros left Fort Lee Virginia nearly two years ago, he was forced to say goodbye to his companion Cici, a bomb-sniffing chocolate lab. The two worked for over 5 years together searching for roadside bombs in Iraq. Sgt. Bros suffered a back injury and was forced to leave the military in 2012, but Cici remained on active duty. A month ago, Cici was set to retire, and Sgt. Bros, with the help of the American Humane Association and Mission K9 Rescue, paid to have her shipped from Germany to live in her new home with her old best friend.
4. Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson and Hawkeye
The picture above really speaks for itself, but the story behind it is even more gut-wrenching. Navy SEAL Tumilson and his lab Hawkeye were so close that when Tumilson was killed in a helicopter crash, shot down by Taliban insurgents with a rocket-propelled grenade, Hawkeye was a moving presence at his funeral. In front of over 1,500 mourners, the Tumilson family walked down the isle of the service with Hawkeye, who dutifully laid down beneath Tumilson’s casket for the entire service.
5. Angie McDonnell and Vidar
Angie McDonnell and Vidar served in Afghanistan’s Helman province together where Vidar saved her life when he found a large stash of grenades in time for McDonnell and others to be saved from a blast. After McDonnell returned home to Wales, she heard that during Vidar’s second tour he began to suffer vision problems and PTSD symptoms, and it was now Mcdonnell’s turn to save Vidar. Vidar faced retirement and potentially euthanasia when McDonnell tracked him down and adopted him on the spot. These two heroes that owe their lives to each other now live happily together back home.
6. Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo
Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo were the best of friends. Together they uncovered 14 bombs and hoards of weapons in five months, more than any other dog and handler in the conflict. When Tasker was shot dead by the Taliban in 2011, a few hours later, 22-month-old Theo suffered a fatal seizure. Theo received the Dickin Medal of Bravery, an award given to exceptional animals in conflict. To Tasker’s mother, Theo truly died of a broken heart.
7. Fallen Soldier Justin Rollin’s and Hero
Justin Rollins found Hero as a few-weeks-old puppy in Samarra, Iraq. Rollins, always a dog lover, joined his comrades in saving a group of abandoned puppies in an upturned doghouse. An excited Justin sent his stateside girlfriend photos of the puppy, though, sadly, that was their last communication. The following day, Rollins was killed by a massive roadside bomb. When his flag-draped casket returned to Arlington Cemetery, an Army General asked Rollin’s mother if there was anything else that he could do for her. There was: she wanted his puppy returned to him. Jason Wheeler, one of Rollin’s best friends made sure to find the exact dog, matching the markings in the pictures. Hero stayed in Iraq for about a month while Wheeler had her cleaned up, vaccinated, and cleared by a vet, before Hero was sent to America, to find a home with his fallen owner’s mother.
8. Sergeant First Class Zack
Sergeant First Class Zack is ranked in the Army and is part of the 98th Combat Stress Control Detachment. Zack is also a golden retriever mix. Staff Sergeant Torsch invited Zach and his handler, Sergeant Brian Christman out to boost morale of soldiers that are new to deployment. Sgt. Christman is also an Occupational Therapy Assistant and, with the help of Sgt. Zack, provides new soldiers with combat stress classes, anger management, and stress management to help them cope with the struggles of being newly deployed.