PHOENIX, Arizona -- We were staged and ready to leave Afghanistan, just waiting for the Chinooks to arrive to carry us out of the hell we knew as Dand Aw Patan. It was bittersweet because I knew in just a few more weeks, I would be sitting in my own living room, watching my own TV and playing with my children trying to forget this place. I was excited and hurt at the same time. I couldn't help but think of Target and Rufus being left behind, but I was somewhat consoled by the fact that there was another US Army unit falling in behind us and they knew of the heroics of Target and Rufus. There was still that part of me that knew that they were still in a lot of danger just because of the area itself. I went and found Rufus to give him one last long pet, an "atta boy" and so long. I then went to find the newest pup on the compound "B" which was short for Bohemoth, which she was tagged because judging by the size of her paws we all believed she was going to be a monster. I got one last photo of Bohemoth sleeping against my body armor, which to this day, is still one of my favorite photos from my time out there. Finally, I found Target who was wandering among the soldiers soaking up all the love she could get before we took off. You know when you look at a dog and you can tell that if they could smile, that would definitely be a smile, well, she would have been from one ear to the other that afternoon because Target was loving the attention. I gave Target lots of love and an extra long petting wishing her the best of luck and hoped that somehow God would find a way to help her stay safe. The idea of the dogs getting saved out of Dand Aw Patan had pretty much escaped everyone's mind because we were going home and the higher ups had more important things to take care of to get us out of there. I will be the first to tell you that I thought for sure that was going to be the last day I would ever lay eyes on those heroic dogs.
As the Chinooks landed and we took off for our long journey home back to the good 'ol U.S. of A., I gave one last long look at those beautiful dogs that had thrown themselves into harm's way to try and slow the homicide bomber that attacked our living quarters that fateful night back in February. We went about our business of turning in equipment, packing and unpacking on a daily basis, and waiting for flights out of Afghanistan. We arrived back in the United States mid way through March at Fort Stewart, Georgia. At that point, the 48th IBCT, began the demobilization process of checking in gear, getting immunizations, clearing paperwork and all the other tedious items you need to perform to get back home.
Once home, I went to work getting used to being human again. When you are deployed to a place such as Dand Aw Patan, you kind of forget what it's like to be civilized. The compound we were on was a far cry from the wonderful home I was sleeping in now. Dand Patan was a hole that felt as if it were sucking the life force from our veins everyday we spent there. The first month was the roughest, no running water, we received one Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) per day and water had to be rationed. Dand Patan was not an Army post, it was an Afghan Border Police compound and we were their guests trying to teach them to act like an "Army." I remember tempers getting shorter day after day and lots of times they would flare out of control. A lot of soldiers said they felt like caged dogs because of the make up of the compound. Our rooms could be mistaken for kennels with the cement floors, smell of urine and feces, razor wire and chain linked fence all around the compound. Maybe that's why the dogs grew to love us so, they could tell we were starting to feel like them and even live like them. So this is what I was trying to forget and move on from the first few weeks being back, but something was about to happen that would open old wounds and warm my heart all at the same time.
There was a soldier, in the unit that replaced us on Dand Patan, that had a mother and fiancée that were seeing pictures of all the puppies along with Rufus and Target. He had simply been sending them to show how cute they all were. The mother and the fiancée decided to start a Facebook page (The Puppy Rescue Mission) to try and raise money to get the dogs rescued from Dand Patan. The Puppy Rescue Mission, along with my original article that I had written about the dogs stopping the homicide bomber, were all the mom and fiancée had, but it was enough because soon there after, word spread and Nowzad dogs (know as the SAC Fund in the USA) along with Hope for the Warriors foundation started working on getting "The Lucky Seven" saved out of Afghanistan. The Lucky Seven were; Rufus, Target, Low Rider, Bohemoth, Hesco, Alf, and Bear. These wonderful little pooches had been given a one way ticket to the good life.
It was July 18th and it was just another day of getting adjusted at work and at home. I was tracking what was going on with the Lucky Seven on Facebook since they had used my article, I was caught up in what was going on and the Puppy Rescue Mission considered me one of the main contributing factors in all of this happening. I was checking Facebook to see what the latest was when I received the message, "Hi Terry, I am Cecilia Pinter's daughter-in-law and I am writing in regards to Target. I was wondering if you wanted to take her into your family, I think with the history you all have with her she would be well placed. She flys in Thursday to JFK with Rufus, please let me know asap if you're interested."
I couldn't believe it, I thought I was dreaming. I knew for sure that last day in Dand Patan was the last time I would ever see Target, but because of a little article I wrote and the help of some wonderful people, Target was going to actually be coming to be part of my family. I responded right away letting the Puppy Rescue Mission know I absolutely wanted Target. Target and Rufus made their way to the US first landing in New York, then making their way to Georgia where they had a heart-warming reunion with Sgt. Chris Dukes, one of the soldiers MedEvac'd the night of the bombing. Sgt. Dukes was keeping Rufus and Target was to be flown to me soon afterwards. Now, both dogs greeted Sgt. Dukes with much media attention as the dogs made the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, the ABC Evening News with Diane Sawyer, even CNN. It was very emotional for me to watch the interviews with Sgt. Duke because all these images started racing back into my mind. I was loving the fact that Target was coming to stay with me, but also hesitant about the emotions being stirred, but then I just had to think of the afternoons sitting, watching Sasha, Target and Rufus play and run around the compound with each other. They were the best of friends. It seemed like even though each of them made their own splash on the scene in their own way, they seemed to not have a care in the world as long as they knew their soldiers were there to care for them and vice versa. It was at that point that I knew I could handle bringing Target back into my life and it would most likely turn out being really good for my psyche.
So, now it is Aug 8th and a little over a week has past since Rufus and Target first made it into the United States. I have had Target for about four days now and she is settling in nicely. Target and our dog, Koda, are having a few disagreements, but every day seems to be getting better. Target is gorgeous and looks so much better than when we left back in March. Target's coat has grown back in and is not missing patches and singed. Target is tired from all the traveling and still trying to recuperate but she is doing very well and becoming more at peace with her new surroundings. Target has various media appointments over the next few months because her tale of heroism has spread and rightfully so, it is a tale that should be shared with everyone because it's not everyday that you get such a feel good happy ending out of a place where happy endings just don't take place that often.
Target and I heading are for New York this week to do an interview on the Huckabee show and then return to Phoenix to take part in a photo shoot for Reader's Digest on Friday. The Reader's Digest article should publish sometime around October or November. Target also has an interview to air on local 12 News Phoenix in September. Target will be attending the F.A.C.C.s fundraising gala in October where she has been voted one of three Heroes of the Year. Finally, Oprah Winfrey is going to do a show involving Target and Oprah sent us a video camera that we are shooting with daily for the segment. Stay tuned....
Readers can follow Target's adventures on Sgt. Young's Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/bigred.young?ref...