War Dogs and Wounded Families: Where’s the Story?

I cannot pass up a heart-wrenching animal story, be it a Katrina rescue (my cross to bear is a rotund, foul-humored Norwegian Forest cat name NOLA) or bringing home the dogs of war who have lost their way. These stories are roller coasters of emotion with tears of loss followed by tears of joy.

Oddly, this was not the case with a recent The Wall Street Journal story. There is a deceased young Marine, grieving parents and struggling canine, all unrelated. Their connection in the end is not enough to give the story a feeling of, well, a story.

Marine Cpl Jason Dunham lay mortally wounded. In 2004 Dunham got into a struggle with an Iraqi when a live grenade fell to the ground. He saved the other Marines by falling atop the grenade with his helmet before it exploded. Dunham made it to Bethesda where his parents received the shocking news their boy would never come out of his coma. Per Jason’s directive, they let him go.

In 2007 his parents accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf from President George W. Bush. The photo shows two parents still lost in grief.

Cue adorable dog. Gunner, a magnificent yellow lab, was posted in Afghanistan, but was not in any bomb-sniffing or booby trap-finding condition. No one knows what happened or where, but Gunner was skittish and could not perform. A year’s worth of retraining failed. Whatever had made him a 4F equivalent, he was now categorized as excess and available for adoption.

It is unclear how but Jason Dunham’s parents got word of Gunner’s status, but they completed the adoption application and were chosen as the new owners. They drove 16 hours to pick him up. Gunner clung to his new family the whole ride home and almost every moment since. Their yellow bundle of joy was a shell-shocked, PTSD-suffering warrior of love.

Though it’s been six years the Dunhams struggle with the loss of Jason like it was yesterday, but they look at Gunner and figure whatever changed him must seem like yesterday to him. They lost one Marine in Jason, Gunner is another Marine to fill that void. (This is in the article.)

This story is curious because of a lack of connection with Jason. The loving relationship between Gunner and the Dunhams is a good thing, but maybe not Wall Street Journal fodder. This story alone certainly is not blog fodder. Is there desperation in the war coverage arena?

More importantly, do they ever name these war dogs Henry, Emily, Buck, Phantom, or even Daisy?

Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.

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