By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
One man and his dog: Justin Rollins befriended a tiny puppy on the night he was killed by an IED in Iraq
Hero is no ordinary New Hampshire dog.
Hers is a tale that began in war-torn Samarra, Iraq, in early 2007.
Justin Rollins, of 82nd Airborne Division, had found the tiny puppy, one of a litter of eight, living underneath an abandoned portable toilet near his base.
Animal contact: Jason Wheeler, left, and Justin took photos of their new friends and sent them home to family. They were the last images Justin sent home
Smiling and enjoying the company of the young litter, he and his team-mates took some photos to send home. Just hours later, Justin was killed by an IED.
The happy pictures he had taken and emailed home that night were the last contact he'd have with his girlfriend and family - but the start of an unlikely tale of determination.
Happier times: Brittney Murray, Justin's girlfriend, helped his mother Rhonda Rollins with lobbying to bring the puppy to the U.S after Justin's death
Just two weeks later, Justin was given a military funeral in the U.S. His grieving mother, Rhonda Rollins, was asked if there was anything the U.S. military could do to help. Well, yes, she answered.
She wanted to bring the brown and white spotted dog that Justin had befriended on the night of his death back to America.
Her request was certainly an unusual one, but, with the help of Brittney Murray, Justin's girlfriend, the ball started to roll.
Puppy lottery: Jason describes the puppy whimpering and crying after they found him. They gave him a bath in a washing machine and prepared him for the long journey to his new home
The high-school sweetheart made six phonecalls and eventually piqued the attention of former New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes, who took up the challenge.
Skip Rollins, Justin's father, spoke about the million-to-one chance of finding the dog - and then getting the clearance to bring it back to the U.S.
The request had to go along 'the chain of command all the way to to the top and then all the way back to the bottom,' he told Animal Planet.
Rhonda told ABC News' 20/20 show: 'They said one in a million. And I had already said, because Justin was a hero, the dog, whether it was male or female, it going to be named Hero.'
An old friend ran the story in a local newspaper and soon Operation Hero had gained the momentum it needed. With the help of the Congressman, strings were pulled within the chain of command.
Luckiest dog in Iraq: 'No one ever expected for it to actually work' said Jason of the unusual plan to bring the Iraqi dog to the U.S.
Jason Wheeler, one of Justin's friends from 82nd Airborne, had originally found the puppies with Justin.
'No one ever expected for it to actually work...' he said of the audacious plan. But one day, 'the call came down: "Hey, we have to get this dog,"' he recalls to Animal Planet.
Against the odds, he helped find the stray puppy months after that fateful night.
'It was crying and whimpering but we were like "You won the puppy lottery and you don't even know it."
'This dog had to think "What the heck just happened to me? I was living underneath the porta-potty, now I'm in a washing machine getting the dirtiest stuff washed off me,"' he told Animal Planet's Saved programme.
New family: Hero is united with Justin's father, Skip, left, girlfriend, Brittney Murray, centre, and Rhonda, right
United at last: After three long months of battling red tape, Hero was delivered to Congressman Hodes' office
Relieved: The perfect moment was only marred by Hero 'christening' the Congressman's office carpet
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Their son never came back from Iraq, the puppy he saved did: The amazing story of how bereaved parents rescued dog of war
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER