It’s no question that a dog is a man’s best friend. Their loyal companionship is undeniable and enriches the lives of their owners. While overseas, soldiers forge bonds with both K9 companions—and even local strays. Many of these dog-loving servicemen and women feed the pups with their own rations and protect them from the elements by secretly in their barracks Take in these patriotic mutts and their heartwarming tails.


Fallen Soldier Justin Rollin’s and Hero

Justin Rollins found Hero as a few-weeks-old puppy in Samarra, Iraq. Rollins, always a dog lover, joined his comrades in saving a group of abandoned puppies in an upturned doghouse. An excited Justin sent his stateside girlfriend photos of the puppy, though, sadly, that was their last communication. The following day, Rollins was killed by a massive roadside bomb. When his flag-draped casket returned to Arlington Cemetery, an Army General asked Rollin’s mother if there was anything else that he could do for her. There was: she wanted his puppy returned to him. Jason Wheeler, one of Rollin’s best friends made sure to and the exact dog, matching the markings in the pictures. Hero stayed in Iraq for about a month while Wheeler had her cleaned up, vaccinated, and cleared by a vet, before Hero was sent to America, to and a home with his fallen owner’s mother


Sergeant First Class Zack

Sergeant First Class Zack is ranked in the Army and is part of the 98th Combat Stress Control Detachment. Zack is also a golden retriever mix. Staff Sergeant Torsch invited Zach and his handler, Sergeant Brian Christman out to boost morale of soldiers that are new to deployment. Sgt. Christman is also an Occupational Therapy Assistant and, with the help of Sgt. Zack, provides new soldiers with combat stress classes, anger management, and stress management to help them cope with the struggles of being newly deployed


AFNG Team and Sheba

While serving in Afghanistan, a troop of National Guard soldiers found a 65-pound mixed breed dog who quickly became a mascot for the men after they found her wandering the base last January. Sheba was incredibly loyal from the start, joining them while out on patrol and chasing away other strays that threatened the soldiers. She gave birth to six pups that March and the troop were determined to take care of all of them. They nursed the dogs with beef jerky, using a lot of their own rations to keep them healthy. When the troop was set to return home, they were devastated to hear that they could not bring them home. Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to retrieving overseas dogs of war, raised enough money to bring all six pups and Sheba home. When they were reunited, the puppies were already six months old and two feet tall. Cadence, Rocky, Sarah, Jack, Buckeye, Breezy, and Harris all went home with members of the team. The team is now dedicated to training Sheba as a service dog. Now these seven dogs have a new lease on life with the soldiers who loved them from the start


Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson and Hawkeye

The picture above really speaks for itself, but the story behind it is even more gut-wrenching. Navy SEAL Tumilson and his lab Hawkeye were so close that when Tumilson was killed in a helicopter crash, shot down by Taliban insurgents with a rocket-propelled grenade, Hawkeye was a moving presence at his funeral. In front of over 1,500 mourners, the Tumilson family walked down the isle of the service with Hawkeye, who dutifully laid down beneath Tumilson’s casket for the entire service


Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo were the best of friends. Together they uncovered 14 bombs and hoards of weapons in five months, more than any other dog and handler in the conict. When Tasker was shot dead by the Taliban in 2011, a few hours later, 22-month-old Theo suffered a fatal seizure. Theo received the Dickin Medal of Bravery, an award given to exceptional animals in conflict. To Tasker’s mother, Theo truly died of a broken heart.

Hannah Gregg