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Tag: troops

New animated film tells story of Stubby, the most decorated dog of World War 1

The story of Stubby, a stray dog who was sneaked into Europe by U.S. soldiers and went on to become the most decorated dog of World War I, will be told in a new animated film being released this month.

Stubby was in the trenches during 17 battles, where he was injured in a gas attack and later used his keen nose to give troops early warning of chemical shellings. He even had his own custom-made gas mask.

He has been described as everything from a pit bull to a Boston terrier, but his heroics have never been disputed.

A new film, “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” opens April 13, according to the Associated Press

Stubby was found on the Yale campus.

He was adopted in 1917 J. Robert Conroy, of New Britain, while he was training in New Haven.

When Conroy shipped out to France, Stubby was smuggled aboard the USS Minnesota in an overcoat.

He became the mascot of the 102nd Regiment by charming officers with his ability to salute, a trick which Conroy taught him.

He also would stand by injured soldiers on the battlefield and alert medics by barking. He was credited with capturing a German soldier he discovered behind the Allied lines, biting him on the rear end and holding on until help arrived.

“What I think meant the most to my grandfather is that Stubby took some of the edge off what was a horrific war,” said Conroy’s grandson, Curt Deane. “There was just an absolute comfort that soldiers got from seeing him. He was, in fact, the first service dog.”

stubbyAfter he returned from the war, Stubby became famous and toured the country. He posed for photos with celebrities and veterans and met three presidents, Deane said.

Stubby died in 1926. His hide was placed over a plaster cast and is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

Director Richard Lanni says he tried to be as authentic as possible when telling the story of Stubby.

The filmmakers have partnered with Humane Society of the United States and approximately 90 other regional and national animal organizations to help promote the adoption of stray dogs.

The film features the voices of Logan Lerman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gerard Depardieu.

(Photos: Stubby in an April, 1919 homecoming parade for World War I veterans in Hartford, courtesy Connecticut State Library, via AP)

Oso arrives safely in U.S. from Afghanistan

Another dog befriended by U.S. troops in Afghanistan has made it to America.

Oso was rescued as a four-month-old pup from the streets of Afghanistan five months ago by Phil Bourillion, of the 5th Stryker Brigade, then went on to befriend his entire unit.

The dog arrived at Sea-Tac Airport late Tuesday morning, where she was met by Bourillion’s wife, Lena, KOMO in Seattle reported.

“She means a lot,” Spc. David LaForge, who is with Bourillon’s unit but home this week on R&R, said of the dog. “She was a big boost of morale when we had her – she was a little puppy – we raised her from nothing.”

When the unit got orders to transfer to another base, plans to bring Oso along were nixed by the Army.

That’s when Lena Bourillion began the long process of trying to get the dog out on her own.

Members of the unit paid a driver to sneak Oso through enemy lines to Kabul. Once Oso was there, Lena, with the help of family and friends, found someone who would get Oso into Pakistan. From there, Oso was placed on a flight to New York and another to Seattle.

Bourillion is due back from Afghanistan in five months.

Oso will spend three weeks in quarantine before going to the Bourillion’s home in Puyallup.

Former Iraqi dog “Nubs” on Today Show

dennisnubs.jpgNubs, the one-time Iraqi street mutt — so named by American soldiers for the stubs where his ears used to be — appeared on this morning’s Today Show, along with the Marine major who rescued him.

Nubs befriended Marine Major Brian Dennis and his fellow soldiers while Dennis was on patrol in the Anbar province.

When Dennis was required to report to another location, 70 miles away, he bid his friend farewell and left with little hope that Nub would survive on the war torn streets. Already, the dog had his ears cut off, and had been stabbed in the side with a screwdriver — both, Dennis believes, by Iraqi soldiers.

Two days after Dennis arrived at his new location, Nubs showed up.

Dennis said he was inside headquarters when a fellow Marine came in and said, “You’re not going to believe who’s outside.”

“Who’s outside?” Dennis asked.

“Nubs is outside,” the soldier said.

After a joyful reunion, Dennis was informed that, since the military prohibits keeping dogs in war zones, he had four days to get rid of him. Given the bond they’d established and the dangers Nubs faced, Dennis was hesitant to do that.

Strays in Iraq, Dennis said today, serve as a needed escape for soliders — “an escape from the drudgery and the mundane life and the bad things you see at times.”

Dennis and his friends launched an Internet campaign and raised $5,000 to send Nubs to a friend in the U.S..

In March 2008, about a month after Nubs arrived, Dennis returned from Iraq and was reunited with the dog.

Now the whole story has become a book, “Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt,  a Marine and a Miracle.”

British troops will bring their friends home

sandbagA stray dog named “Sandbag” who was taken in by British soldiers in Iraq has been transported to a safe house with his puppy in preparation for their flight to the UK.

Soldiers who adopted the dog as their mascot — he was rumored to have been shot five times by then — returned home earlier this year, according to he Daily Mail.

They were worried he would be put down by local Iraqis or killed by other dogs, but the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) tracked down Sandbag, and his puppy, Dirtbag, around the port at Umm Qasr, near Basra, last week.

The dogs were believed to have been living on the streets for about three weeks.

The Mail reports that three armored vehicles were deployed last Thursday to rescue the dogs and transport them to a safe house in Baghdad where they will be cared for while arrangements are made to fly them to the UK.

A fundraising appeal to bring Sandbag home was launched on August 7 by the Blue Cross, a British pet charity, and the SWHP. Nearly 500 people worldwide have donated to the appeal since then.

Rescuers also found a cat the troops had befriended, named Hesco, and planned to ship him to Britain as well once temperatures cool enough to fly the animals safely to Kuwait, and then Britain.

To donate to the fundraising appeal, visit www.bluecross.org.uk.

(Photo:  Sandbag, right, relaxes with Dirtbag in Iraq)

Home from Iraq, soldier reunites with dog

Three months after shipping her adopted dog, Ratchet, home from Iraq, Army Specialist Gwen Beberg was reunited with him, her tour of duty completed.

“Hey, baby. Oh, you got so big — Oh, you got so big,” said the soldier to the pup. “Yeah, who’s home? Who’s home, huh?”

The two were reunited Saturday as Beberg returned to Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Friends, family and supporters gathered at VFW Post 363 to witness the reunion. “I wish every soldier in the world, past, present and future, came home to a welcome like this,” Beberg said.

Beberg urged support for Operation Baghdad Pups, a branch of SPCA International that rescues dogs and cats adopted by U.S. military personnel. More than 50 pets have been relocated to the United States.

Beberg adopted Ratchet as a month-old pup after fellow soldiers rescued him from a burning pile of trash.

Although the Army balked at Beberg’s plan to send the dog home, Beberg’s efforts, and those of Operation Baghdad Pups — along with 70,000 signatures on online petitions and some help from congress — led military officials to loosen the prohibition on U.S. troops adopting pets in Iraq.

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.