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While They Serve
By Edie Melson

A Soldier's Canine Hero

It was late one afternoon when we received an excited phone call from our Marine Corps son.

He’d just gotten word that his M.O.S (Military Occupational Specialty) was changing, and he couldn’t wait to share the news. His new assignment would be that of bomb dog handler. I have to admit that as his mother, I was lot less inclined to celebrate. I wanted my son as far away as possible from bombs–not guiding a dog whose primary mission was to find them.

But despite my misgivings, I knew being assigned as a handler was the perfect fit for our rough-and-tumble Marine. He’d had to leave the dog he grew up with at home when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. I knew how much he still missed having a dog around.

The weeks turned into months as Jimmy learned all about these amazing animals. Finally the day came that he was introduced to the dog who’d become his friend and his partner. Seger exploded into his life like a dark, furry tornado. One thing our son had learned was that the dogs are carefully matched with the handler’s personality. When I heard that, I knew what kind of animal Jimmy would be assigned. And sure enough the dog, like the man, didn’t know the meaning of the words take it easy or can’t.

These two quickly became inseparable. We loved visiting on base so we could watch the relationship between canine and handler. Then it was off to more serious training missions and the two began to have more opportunities to test the bonds of their partnership.

I had already come to love the effect this big black lab had on our son. He was more laid back and easygoing now that Seger had come into his life. His fiancé and I both remarked on the noticeable difference. But it was on their final training mission before leaving for Iraq that we discovered the depths of this dog’s devotion to his master.

Jimmy and Seger had been left in the desert overnight and the temperature dipped far below what had been expected. My son began to slip into hypothermia, despite all the precautions he’d taken. As he became groggier, hovering near unconsciousness, he realized Seger had been busy. The dog had dug a hole in rocky ground and proceeded to push a barely conscious Jimmy into it. After the dog had his master settled, he crawled on top of him, keeping him warm with his own body heat through the frigid night.

The next day the patrol picked up the two, neither having suffered lasting harm. As for me, this was what I needed to be able to let Jimmy go back on deployment with a sense of peace. God had showed me that he had placed a very special guardian over my son. I took comfort in that fact, able to face his second deployment with the knowledge that God truly was in control.

Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.