A recent article posted on MSNBC.com caught my attention the other day as it spoke about a soldier and his four legged Iraqi companion. The article was about Major Steven Hutchinson and an Iraqi dog named Laia that he adopted while deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The article begins on a sad note, as I immediately read that Maj. Hutchinson passed away because of a roadside bomb just three months before he was to return home to the U.S. While Maj. Hutchinson was deployed, his unit found a stray 1 month old pup that was to be euthanized unless his unit adopted her. Maj. Hutchinson responded to the call. Almost being reprimanded for defying military orders, Hutchinson was doing everything he could to make sure Laia would be returning home with him when he was due back.
Major Hutchinson might have lost his life in Iraq, but his dreams of returning Laia back home are coming true. With the help of the SPCA and Operation Baghdad Pups, Laia is on her way to a new life with a new family (that family being the brother of Maj. Hutchinson).
The unit of Maj. Hutchinson spoke about how the dog brought great joy and happiness to him as the dog would travel around with him on his lap and even sleep along side of him. In the medical field, dogs are used for therapeutic services to help people of all ages who are dealing with physical and mental disabilities. Though in the battlefield dogs are being used to detect explosive material, land mines, perform guard duties, and even help with search and rescue missions. However, dogs and puppies such as Laia are bringing much therapeutic services to the American Soldiers as they are finding that caring for a dog (while serving in a war zone) is giving them feelings that they are missing with their family back home in the states.
An article by USA Today helps to bring life to what I’m speaking about as it talks about the psychological benefits to therapy dogs and the impact they can have on the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Major Hutchinson’s story is just one of many that have surfaced in the news helping to show the psychological benefits dogs can have on soldiers in a war zone. With no family and children to care for, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding that the stray pups and dogs they find off the streets are bringing them much happiness that they would be receiving by being around their loved ones who are waiting on their return back in the U.S.
People do not understand the importance of these animals in the fight against the war on terror. As I said before, they carry very unique skills that humans cannot emulate and because of this military dogs have saved thousands of lives doing what they do best. I was very fortunate to have worked side by side with K-9 units while I served in the Security Forces at Elmendorf AFB.
While being deployed to Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia, I was given the opportunity to watch the training these incredible animals go through with the military. My job at PSAB was to work with the search team, which was made up of a number of military police members and a K-9 team. Together we would search all civilians and vehicles looking to come onto our installation usually to do contract work. The K-9 team was the first to conduct a search of all the vehicles in the search bay, using the dogs keen sense of smell to sniff out any explosive material. Although I will not go further into how we conducted our searches using the military dog, I will say that the military dog was so well trained that with the slightest amount of material used for making IED’s, the dog would pick up on the scent and we would immediately respond.
The Dog is not only man’s best friend, but it is also one of the greatest assets in the military, and has been for many years. Military dogs and stray dogs being adopted by American Soldiers are receiving more help than ever before as organizations such as Baghdad Pups, Space Coast War Dog Association and Guardian Angels for Soldier’ Pets are doing all that they can to get the word out on how to donate and help these incredible animals and the people that care for them.
Today War Dogs who have been injured in war are being rewarded military honors for their service, receiving medals such as the Purple Heart. War dogs who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting their partner and the lives of so many are being remembered with the creation of numerous monuments and websites.
I’d like to dedicate this to Tsgt. Jason Norton who was a K-9 handler for the 3rd Security Forces, Elmendorf AFB and who lost his life while deployed in Iraq. I was fortunate to work with Tsgt. Norton and received the news about his passing when I separated from the service. He will always be remembered.
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