Shelley Mamott, Staff Writer
Charlie, Liberty and Freedom reunited with soldiers
With slobbery licks and kisses, 14 stray dogs from war-torn Afghanistan were reunited Wednesday with the US service members who cared for them.
The dogs were flown to the US by British charity Nowzad Dogs, started by former British Royal Marine Pen Farthing, who served in Afghanistan. The charity reunites dogs and cats from Afghanistan with the soldiers they befriended. American Airlines flew the dogs from the Middle East to JFK Airport, New York, where the emotional reunions took place.
The Afghan dogs were grateful to be out of their crates and back in the arms of their best friends. They joyfully licked, sniffed and yelped as the military members embraced them amid balloons and flag decorations.
Sheila Schaffer reunited with Charlie, left, and right, when Charlie was a puppy inAfghanistan in March
US soldiers regularly befriend loyal Afghan dogs, who are invaluable companions on the front line and provide relief and companionship after days of fatiguing fire fights.
Now, the stray dogs who helped soldiers through their toughest times are being thanked - with new loving homes. The soldiers traveled from their home towns across America to greet the dogs off the plane before taking them home.
“I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh when I saw Charlie,” said Specialist Sheila Schaffer. “To hold him again thousands of miles away and so many months later is an amazing thing.”
Specialist, Penny Herald with her dog Liberty
“It was very stressful out there,” Zachary Henning said. “To have an animal like Gus keep us company, reduce the stress…he warmed my heart and helped me survive mentally and I need to repay him.”
“I’m going to take him to the park and let him run and run in the grass,” Henning said of his black and white charge, Gus, minutes after they reunited at JFK airport. “He’s never been in grass before.”
Captain Steve Blankenship, Managing Director of Veterans Initiatives for American Airlines, said, “Bringing their pets home to them from overseas is an important way to recognize the sacrifices made by our soldiers, and American Airlines is glad to be able to help make it happen.”
Photo credits: dailymail