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Major Victory for Military Dogs in Their Fight to Be Returned Home

Rexo waits for his handler, Senior Airman John Spearing, to give instructions before participating in a Brave Defender training scenario on Oct. 23 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The two-week course has now added a military working dog tract to the curriculum. Airman Spearing is with the 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins AFB, Ga.  (Image: 
 Staff Sgt. Mike Meares. via  Wikimedia Commons  /   public domain.)
Rexo waits for his handler, Senior Airman John Spearing, to give instructions before participating in a Brave Defender training scenario on Oct. 23 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The two-week course has now added a military working dog tract to the curriculum. Airman Spearing is with the 78th Security Forces Squadron at Robins AFB, Ga. (Image: Staff Sgt. Mike Meares. via Wikimedia Commons / public domain.)

U.S. Military dogs have the American Humane Association to thank for wining a battle that they could have never won on their own. President Obama has signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which guarantees that when military dogs are retired overseas, they will be returned to the U.S., and their handlers will have first preference in adopting them as pets.

‘This is a momentous day for all veterans,’

Dr. Robin Ganzert, the American Humane Association president and CEO, said in a press release: “We applaud Congress and the president for passing and signing the bill with the language we provided, and stepping up for our brave K-9 Battle Buddy teams who have benefited, and will continue to benefit, from their service together.”

 U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Lee from Keystone Heights, Fla., a dog handler attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and U.S. Military Working Dog Chris take U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Moreno, kennel master attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, into custody during training in subject control techniques at Joint Security Station Loyalty, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, on May 15. (Image: Staff Sgt. James Selesnick. via Wikimedia Commons public domain.)

U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Lee from Keystone Heights, Fla., a dog handler attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and U.S. Military Working Dog Chris, take U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Moreno, kennel master attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, into custody during training in subject control techniques at Joint Security Station Loyalty, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, on May 15. (Image: Staff Sgt. James Selesnick. via Wikimedia Commons /public domain.)

It has been estimated that each military dog has saved the lives of between 150 and 200 servicemen and women while performing its duties (detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches). Instead of rewarding these heroes when they retire from active duty overseas — until now, they were usually left behind on enemy soil.

“The language in the NDAA is about healing — healing veterans and their families. These dogs have so much love to give… it’s time we show some in return,” said Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.).

The reason behind this is once they have been retired, they are civilians, making them ineligible for military transport home to the U.S. — not the best way to treat our war heroes. This also makes it extremely difficult for their handlers to get them back to the U.S.

Spc. Joseph Lopez, a military working dog handler for Combined Team Zabul, Afghanistan, deployed from the 148th Military Police Detachment, Fort Carson, Colo., runs through a challenge drill with Edy, a U.S. Air Force military working/patrol explosive detection dog at Forward Operating Base Lagman. Lopez and Edy are part of Combined Team Zabul. The team is made up of dogs and dog handlers from the Air Force, Army and Navy who help support the various units at FOB Lagman during patrols and other various missions. (Image: Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz. via Wikimedia Commons / public domain.)

Spc. Joseph Lopez, a military working dog handler for Combined Team Zabul, Afghanistan, deployed from the 148th Military Police Detachment, Fort Carson, Colo., runs through a challenge drill with Edy, a U.S. Air Force military working/patrol explosive detection dog at Forward Operating Base Lagman. Lopez and Edy are part of Combined Team Zabul. The team is made up of dogs and dog handlers from the Air Force, Army, and Navy who help support the various units at FOB Lagman during patrols and other various missions. (Image: Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz. via Wikimedia Commons /public domain.)

“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home, and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with, or a fellow veteran,” said Lance Corporal DeYoung, USMC (Ret.), who was reunited with his Military War Dog Cena with the help of the American Humane Association.

The bill was introduced in the House and the Senate by Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Senator Claire McCaskill. Over the past year, the American Humane Association has privately funded the transportation home of 21 military working dogs and contract working dogs, and helped reunite them with their former human handlers, according to PR Newswire.

Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs stand with their handlers April 29 after their long-awaited arrival to Forward Operating Base Pasab. The TEDDs are combat multipliers which provide early detection and warning to paratroopers of explosive materials. The handlers and dogs just completed a four-month preparation pase. All handlers are 4th Brigade Combat Team paratroopers and for the majority of them this is their first deployment. (Image: Capt. Allie Scott. via Wikimedia Commons / public domain.)

Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs stand with their handlers April 29 after their long-awaited arrival at Forward Operating Base Pasab. The TEDDs are combat multipliers, which provide early detection and warning to paratroopers of explosive materials. The handlers and dogs just completed a four-month preparation phase. All handlers are 4th Brigade Combat Team paratroopers, and for the majority of them this is their first deployment. (Image:
Capt. Allie Scott. via Wikimedia Commons /public domain.)

In July 2014, the American Humane Association held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to bring to light the need to bring home all of our veterans, and pushed for the long-overdue changes to the NDAA.

It is an unfortunate fact that when our brave servicemen and women return home, their fight is not over. Thousands of our nation’s veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) every year. Their returning to normal society is often difficult, and in some cases terrifying. The reuniting of handler and war dog — which can also often suffer from PTS — helps in the healing process for both.

With the repatriation and the handler adoption, along with specialized health care, now assured, Dr. Ganzert declared: “This is a great day for military heroes on both ends of the leash. We believe ALL our veterans — two-footed and four-footed — should come back to a hero’s welcome, a loving, forever home, and the happy, healthy, and dignified retirement they so deserve after a lifetime of service to their country.”

It is this bond between veterans that had saved lives on the battlefield, and now saves lives at home.

“These heroes have served their country with valor, and saved the lives of our servicemen and women while risking their own,” said John Payne, chairman of the board for the American Humane Association. “It is essential that we step up and care for these warriors who did — and continue to do — so much for us, and all those who served alongside them. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

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