The Best Defense

Hating that yellow ribbon (III): Why your 'thank you' is so damn awkward

I thought Jim Gourley had a lot of wisdom to impart in yesterday's discussion with his comments about how internal grief often is expressed as external anger. If you didn't see it, go back and look

Meanwhile, further exploring this theme of disliking the yellow ribbon mentality, there was this from "Strykertyme," which I nominate as a tie for comment of the day:

When I was in Iraq from Aug 06-Feb 07 I never left the wire. We received IDF maybe two times, one of which we didn't even know anything had happened until the big voice announced "ALL CLEAR" out of nowhere. So, I can't speak on what it was like to go out on patrols, get shot at, blown up, and do the heavy work of the war.

I was one of about 12 Marines working at a hospital with a bunch of Navy Medical Personnel (some of whom drove me crazy, but all of them were great at their jobs, so I hold them in very high regard). This unique job put me in some very thought provoking situations, thoughts I'm still contemplating today.

We received 112 KIAs, mostly Iraqis, but at least 1/3 were American service members, a few of which died within the Hospital itself (the darkest moments of the deployment). Each one made me contemplate our being there. Each one led me to the thought of some Mom back in the States who at the time had no idea that her son had died in a terrible IED blast or fell victim to a sniper's round, etc., and that within hours she'd be notified, and her world would be flipped upside down forever. Each one led me to ask myself, what the f*** are we doing here?

I've been back nearly 4 years now, left the Marine Corps in 08, and I still can't come to terms with that question. The more I think about it, the more I become sick to my stomach, and each "thank you" only reinforces that feeling. I hope to one day get to the point where "thank you" doesn't make me feel awkward, but I don't see that being anytime soon.


The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Will stem cells save Lex the sniffer dog?

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

It was only a few years ago that Lex, a German Shepherd, was patrolling the streets of Fallujah sniffing out roadside bombs with his handler, 20 year old Corporal Dustin J. Lee. The two made quite a pair and were said to be inseparable. But during an attack on March 21, 2007 a rocket-propelled grenade killed Cpl. Lee. Lex sustained serious shrapnel wounds to his hindquarters including a piece still lodged in his spine.

Cpl.'s Lee's family, knowing how much their son had cared for his canine partner, lobbied to adopt Lex. Getting Lex released into their custody, however, was no easy feat. Undeterred by military regulations, the family "launched an Internet petition and enlisted the aid of a North Caroline congressman..." and by December Lex was at home with the Lees in Mississippi. It was, apparently, the first time the military has "granted a dog early retirement to be adopted by someone other than a former handler." Dustin's father said he and his wife were only acting in their son's stead. "He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own."

But once Lex arrived, there was no escaping the depth of his injuries -- the nine-year-old dog could barely walk on his own.

Lex received treatment at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, but to no avail. Serendipitously word reached Dr. Lee W. Morgan of Georgetown Veterinary Hospital in Washington, DC, a veterinarian who practices a "cutting-edge" (and expensive) stem cell treatment. But the ever-resourceful Lees raised funds and Dr. Morgan agreed to treat Rex for a reduced fee.

According to Dr. Morgan, Lex there were upwards of 50 pieces of shrapnel lodged in his back. "Showing [X-rays of Lex's injuries] to the parents [was difficult], Dr. Morgan told the Georgetowner, "because this was the shrapnel that killed their son."

Lex was flown up from Mississippi to have the surgery and subsequent treatments on November 16 and is reported to be doing well -- his "kind, gentle demeanor" very much intact. Dr. Morgan's success rate with other dogs with the stem-cell treatment is very high -- seven out of the last nine he's performed in the last year have been complete success. His owners have faith that Lex will make a full recovery:

When I saw [Lex] walking down the hall he wasn't hopping or giving in as much, and I could tell [the treatment] has already started working," [Mrs. Lee] said. "I feel that with physical therapy and the love that we're giving him, as he's a part of our family, it's just gonna get better."

In other war-dog news:
After a bit of custodial drama, Sabi, the Aussie dog who lost her way in Afghanistan, returned home to Australia this week where she'll remain with her handler until her service is over.