U.S. Marine David Pond made it through a seven-month tour in Afghanistan partly because he had a partner who helped him through the toughest times. The soldier and his bomb-sniffing dog traveled the dangerous streets in that country trying to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to keep other troops out of harm’s way.
When he returned home and tried to adjust to his post-service life, the hardest part was being separated from his canine comrade.
“I finally hit the point where I was done,” Pond told the Denver Post in a story published on Monday. “I have a lot of grit and I ran out.”
When Pond and Pablo, a Belgian Malinois, returned to the U.S., Pablo was sent to a base in Georgia. Despite his best intentions, Pond said he could not settle into his new life. And the military rules were clear: dog handlers cannot adopt their dogs.
“Initially denied, Pond kept pushing for the adoption, starting an online petition and gaining the attention in the national press,” the Post reported. “Finally, several months later, the Secretary of the Navy signed off on Pablo’s adoption in 2015.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how awesome it has been to be able to get him,” Pond said. “I’d still be wandering around like, ‘What the (expletive) am I supposed to be doing?’”
Now, Pond is paying it forward by trying to help other vets in their transition from military service to civilian life. He helped found the Military Scholars Fund at Regis University where he earned his finance degree in 2016.
“In 2011, David Pond and his military working dog Pablo spent seven months traveling the treacherous roads of Afghanistan in search of dangerous and debilitating roadside bombs,” the university website on the scholarship fund states. “They survived several combat patrols and engaged in more than 30 firefights.”
“[Pond] joined forces with Regis’ associate provost Janna Oakes and Nathan Matlock, director for the study of war experience, to create an endowed scholarship for veterans to backfill funding gaps left by the GI Bill,” the Post reported.
Those gaps include:
- Housing allowance deficiencies during University closure for breaks/holidays.
- Summer tuition assistance.
- Textbook expenses beyond benefit-covered expenses.
- Other expenses directly related to the success of the military/dependent student.
So far, $21,775 has been raised for the Regis scholarship fund.
In 2015, another story about a canine soldier and his human handler when viral.
“SPC Brown and Rocky are both doing well after being treated for injuries they suffered from an IED blast earlier this week while searching a structure in support of ongoing operations in Afghanistan,” a Facebook post said.
It included a photo of Rocky with a Purple Heart medallion attached to his collar. Andrew Brown called Rocky “an American soldier” and said his “rank is one above his handler’s.”
“He does everything,” Brown said. “I’m just really a guy with a leash.”