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Ratchet still stuck in Iraq

Fifteen more Iraqi pets befriended and taken in by U.S. soldiers made their way back to the U.S. Wednesday via Operation Baghdad Pups, but Ratchet (left) was not among them.

Scheduled to be flown home to Sgt. Gwen Beberg’s parents in Minneapolis, Ratchet was confiscated by U.S. military officials on his way to the Baghdad Airport for no apparent reason, according to SPCA International, which operates the program.

The SPCA International initiative was created to provide medical care, clearance and transport home to animals U.S. soldiers have come to love and care for during deployment in the Middle East.

On Wednesday Operation Baghdad Pups Program Manger, Terri Crisp, returned to the United States Wednesday with 15 more U.S. soldiers’ pets. But the happy occasion was marred by news that  Ratchet was left behind.

At least 5 other soldiers are facing situations similar to Sgt. Beberg’s as the military cracks down on animal friendships they consider to be harmful, SPCA International says.

“There comes a point when Americans must ask, whose side is the military on? The way the military is blatantly disregarding free therapy for our mentally wounded soldiers begs that question today,” said  Crisp. 

Sgt. Beberg’s mother, Patricia Beberg, was saddened by the news as well. The sergeant has been in Iraq 15 months past her original return date.

“It has been a year of disappointments, loneliness, and fear because of all the sacrifices the army has required of Gwen. Ratchet was the savior of her sanity. I don’t know how my daughter will cope. Ratchet has been her lifeline,” explains Sgt. Beberg’s mother.

“Hundreds of U.S. soldiers in the Middle East befriend animals in the war zone to help themselves cope with the hardship and terror they face every day. These dogs and cats become their lifeline – saving them from deep depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” SPCA International said in a press release.

“The military refuses to help or formally recognize the lifeline these animals give to our mentally wounded. Veterans returned from Iraq are committing suicide at twice the rate of average Americans. It is time that Americans ask the Veterans Administration and the military to embrace all measures to ensure the mental health of every one of our soldiers returning from war.  Operation Baghdad Pups’ dogs and cats can help fight this silent killer.”

So far, more than 1,200 have signed an online petition for the military to release Ratchet.


Comment from Jacques
Time October 1, 2009 at 9:53 am