Today is Dude's day. This story comes to us by way of Staff Sergeant Jaekeun Lee, whose unit, while based in Afghanistan, came to love one little stray...
Dude was brought to our compound in Helmand province only a few days after a coordinated insurgent rocket attack on our base that resulted in the wounding of six local national children. Many of the members of our unit worked on saving these children: five were medevac'd and four of them survived and recovered. Needless to say the attack and dealing with the casualties had a large impact on the morale of the soldiers of our unit and Dude's arrival did much to lift the spirits of all of the soldiers on our compound.
Some local children brought Dude to our compound to sell to us but instead we offered them humanitarian assistance supplies of blankets, backpacks and food that they gladly accepted in exchange. All of the soldiers on the base took care of Dude and enjoyed his presence to help lighten the mood in the highly kinetic environment that we were experiencing every day. CPT Allen, one of the soldiers that arranged for the trade for Dude, wanted to make sure that the dog that had done so much for the morale of the soldiers would also be taken care of when we re-deployed.
CPT Allen contacted the Nowzad Dogs organization that helps animals adopted by coalition soldiers make their way back to the U.K. and the U.S. On the way out of the country, CPT Allen arranged for Nowzad Dogs to pick up Dude in one of the larger cities near our village. Dude was then transported to Kabul where he underwent quarantine and treatment by Nowzad for two months.
While this was going on, CPT Allen with the help of other members of our unit, friends, and family raised the money required to get Dude sent back to the United States. After two months, Dude was sent through Dubai then on to Atlanta and finally, to his new home near Ft Bragg, North Carolina. Dude has been adjusting well to his new home and will always be remembered by the soldiers of our unit for the joy that he brought during some trying times.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.