A retiring Iraq war veteran has a long list of accomplishments from his six years of service. He patrolled the streets of Baghdad, suppressed a prison riot, and detected explosives on a garbage truck destined to detonate at an American mess hall, thereby saving hundreds of soldiers' lives.
But what's unique about this particular military hero is the fact that he has four legs.
Military Working Dog Dexter CO67—Dexter, for short—will live a relaxed life in the far northern suburb of Spring Grove, thanks to the military organization saveavet.org.
Dexter almost didn't get to enjoy his retirement. The military had intended to euthanize the dog because he was having hip problems, and most military and police dogs cannot be adopted due to their aggressiveness. Kathleen Ellison, his Navy handler, pleaded with congressmen to save the canine hero.
Ellison got in contact with Debbie Kandoll, who runs Military Working Dog Adoptions, who in turn found Iraq vet Danny Scheurer, co-founder of Save-A-Vet. He worked with similar dogs in his basic infantry unit and has the experience needed to handle a fellow veteran.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for these dogs," 30-year-old Scheurer told the Sun-Times. "These dogs saved my life."
Later this month, Kandoll and Ellison will escort Dexter back to the United States from his base in Naples, Italy. Once in Spring Grove, he will be welcomed by a public ceremony at Fox Lake American Legion Post 703, where he will become a full-fledged member.
In fact, John Raughter, communications director for the American Legion National, told the Lake County News Sun that no other post has ever admitted a working animal.
"The posts are autonomous. They don't have to ask us for permission," Raughter said.
Jerry Kandziorski, commander of the post, feels it is only right to induct Dexter.
"We feel he is a military veteran. He deserves some recognition of his own," Kandziorski explained. "He spent six years in Iraq, and he deserves this."
Dexter is scheduled to attend his first meeting in January.