** See end of post for updates!**
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched an online petition last week, urging the United States Air Force to reunite Sergeant Rex*, a military working dog, with his former partner, Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Corporal Megan Leavey. The two had served together helping to identify and disable roadside bombs in Iraq.
Leavey and Sgt. Rex were severely injured in 2006 when insurgents detonated an IED at the side of the road they were patrolling. Corporal Leavey was awarded the Purple Heart and a Combat Valor Medal, and the pair spent the next year recovering together from their injuries.
While Corporal Leavey retired from the Marine Corps in 2007, Rex continued working with other members of the military, making the Iraq landscape safer for our soldiers. Leavey has attempted to adopt Sgt. Rex, but she was initially turned down since Rex was still deemed able to work.
Once it became known that Sgt. Rex, who is now 10 years old, was unable to work and would soon be retired from service, Leavey, a dog handler in Rockland County, NY, renewed her efforts, to no avail.
The problem? Beauracratic red tape.
In stepped Sen. Schumer, who sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley, urging him to expedite the process to reunite Rex and Leavey as quickly as possible, particularly because the dog is already 10 years old and in declining health. Then Schumer set up the petition, which to date has more than 20,000 signatures.
UPDATE 4/6/12: This IS the same Sgt. Rex that was the subject of the book of the same name by Mike Dowling – I was mistaken about that earlier. And here’s some great news: on Friday, April 6, Sgt. Rex and Megan Leavey will be reuinited! Yay! Rex will travel from Camp Pendelton, CA to Leavey’s home in Valley Cottage, NY, where he’ll live out the rest of his life in comfort.
You can follow along with Mike Dowling and his book, Sergeant Rex, and his updates on Megan and Sgt. Rex, on his Facebook page. And be sure to check out Dowling’s book, which chronicles the story of Sgt. Rex and Dowling, another Marine Rex saved in combat. What a heroic dog!