Salute

Because of the nature of my work, I spend entirely too much time on airplanes and in airports. Last night was one of those nights and I found myself in the Charlotte airport with about an hour to kill until my 10:30 pm flight home to Asheville.

I found a bar close to my gate and ordered an overpriced beer. The bartender asked for my ID. I would love to claim that was because of my youthful appearance, but since I am more than twice the legal drinking age, and because she asked everyone else who ordered a drink, I am assuming it is just policy at that bar. Getting my beer, I went back to the book (Marley and Me) I had been reading on this series of flights.

A few minutes later, a young man sat down beside me and ordered a drink. The bartender asked for his ID and he showed his Marine Corps ID. We spoke for a couple of minutes about his service and I learned that he and his partner (his phrase) had just completed a tour in Iraq, he was headed to see his “girl” (wife or girlfriend, I do not know) for the Easter weekend, and then was headed to Afghanistan. He was proud of the way citizens of both countries were fighting for their own freedom, confident of the progress that had been made, and obviously proud to be a part of that.

My cell phone interrupted our conversation with a call from home asking if my flights were on-time, etc. After a couple of minutes of talk, I hung up my phone. My background picture on my phone often catches people’s eye since it is of a particularly attractive female:

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Yes, that would be Queen Natasha the Evil. The young marine saw the picture and asked about her. I explained about the Herd. He was fascinated and then pulled his own phone out and offered to show his “partner,” Rex (not really the dog’s name, but I am avoiding using both the Marine’s name and the dog’s name for their own safety).

Rex was a beautiful Belgian Malinois and a well-trained member of the U.S. Marine Corps. The young marine also showed me a video on his cell phone of Rex in training, wrestling a “subject” to the ground. I am sure the training subject was happy he was wearing pads because Rex was quite effective. But when the Marine ordered Rex to stop, he did – instantly. The Marine remarked on how well Rex listened to commands and how important that was in a battle situation.

At this point, I explained how Siberian Huskies were notorious for their ability to selectively ignore commands because of their need to overrule a musher if a musher asked them to do something dangerous.

The Marine smiled and then told me a story from Iraq. He and Rex arrived on the scene of a recently exploded IED, those devices that have been so deadly to our troops. He explained that their job was to track the “bad guy” who had planted the IED and Rex was particularly good at that task. So he commanded Rex to track (by the way, the commands are not in English, but in a less common language to prevent someone else from calling out commands).

Rex took 12 steps forwards with the Marine behind him until suddenly Rex went to his belly and refused to move forward. The Marine called Rex back to him, asked him what was wrong, and then told him again, “Track.”

Rex again moved forward to the same point, but again dropped to his belly. The Marine stepped forward and scanned the ground. Hiding just in front of Rex was a secondary IED, set in such a way that anyone – human or dog – tracking the bad guy would set it off. So Rex, in ignoring the command, saved his master and the other Marines behind them ready to hunt the bad guy down.

With that story, we each had finished our wait time and headed off in different directions after I wished him well in Afghanistan.

Today, I am back in my house, surrounded by The Herd (snoozing after their breakfast), safe and comfortable. But I have to take a moment to thank this Marine and his partner, Rex – as well as all of the other military personnel – U.S. and allies – that are out there working hard everyday.

Thank you.

D. K. Wall

14 Comments

  1. Carolynn on August 9, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    What an execellent story! Thank you!

  2. Kayla and Maebe on May 12, 2009 at 12:52 am

    That is a wonderful story. Thank woo for sharing.

    WOOOO woo rar rar rar,
    Kayla and Maebe

  3. Elmo & Mouse on April 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Wow, what a story. Hope the marine and his Rex are doing well and safe.

  4. Mochi on April 10, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Awesome story! Thank you for sharing it with us! We are so lucky to have people and pups like them to protect us!

    Mochi

  5. Huffle Mawson on April 9, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Woos to the marines and the pups.

    Huffle Mawson

  6. Stella on April 9, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    A very touching story, D.K. and thanks for sharing it with us. I am always moved by hearing a serviceman or woman tell about how strongly they feel about what they are doing and where they serve.
    Add a dog, and its the best.

    Kisses,
    Stella

  7. Ozzie on April 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing with us your chance encounter with Rex’s partner. I am glad we have folks like these two protecting us. I join you in your salute to the teams out there who take on these kinds of missions. Glad Rex was as stubborn as a husky.

    Ozzie

  8. Kira on April 9, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Wooo! What a great story! I am sure that my Mommy thinks I should work a little harder at all commands. It should be an inspiration, but I probably won’t listen….
    Mom and Dad salute this great Man and dog team and we are proud to announce our human nephew is joining the marines this summer,( he has already enlisted)

  9. Painter Pack on April 9, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Woo woo wooos to the Marines!!! I love all our military men, women, and four legged ones! This story is a great inspiration for us huskies to listen a little bit better and be thankful for our homes!!!

    Mya Boo Boo

  10. the Army of Four on April 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    What an outstanding story – about an outstanding Marine and his partner! We join you in saluting this great team!!!
    Thank you for sharing “Rex’s” story with us. We owe so much to the members of our military – to include those who walk on four legs!
    Tail wags,
    Storms

  11. princess eva on April 9, 2009 at 11:52 am

    We’re the cute fluffy version of the Malinois.

    They are a lot of dog in a compact package- intelligent, driven, athletic with a lot of personality. As our momma has been told by those in law enforcement, getting taken down by a GSD is like getting hit a truck. Getting taken down by a Malinois(aka Maligator, Malinut etc) is like getting hit by a Semi with a full load. You do not mess with a Mal on a mission.

    We are very proud of all of the dogs working hard in the military and L.E.

    Proud to be a Belgian,
    Princess Eva & Brice

  12. Khyra on April 9, 2009 at 11:30 am

    WOW!

    What a story! And all bekhause of YOUR KHWEEN!

    Just wait until some Belgian Buds of ours get to read this too!

    Tank woo fur sharing!

    Cheers to woo and your airport ami!

    Hugz&Khysses,
    Khyra
    PeeEssWoo: The OP Pakhk Woo’s the truth!

  13. Steve & Kat on April 9, 2009 at 11:28 am

    That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing. What a great Marine and a great dog. We’re glad to know that they are keeping us safe.

    Steve and Kat

    PS. We didn’t know that there was a valid reason for our selective hearing. Mom should hear this.

  14. The OP Pack on April 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

    That’s a great story – sounds as if the meeting was meant to be.

    Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

    Tail wags, the OP Pack

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