Our brave men and women in the service endure the traumas of war that most Americans can’t even imagine, and many less will actually experience the atrocities of combat firsthand. Often after being released from service, our soldiers in uniform don’t leave the battlefield behind. For those who are fortunate enough to come home safely, adjusting back to civilian life can take some time.
When this marine came home after his second tour in Afghanistan, he realized he was missing an essential piece to his recovery and went through great lengths to get it back.
Lance Corporal David Pond was one of those soldiers. Shortly after returning home from a tour in Afghanistan in 2011, the then 27-year-old was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. PTSD is a disorder developed after one experiences or witnesses a life-threatening event. It’s characterized by failure to recover after the trauma, and Pond was no stranger to it.
“People have this perception that it’s 30-year-old men that fight wars, and it’s not. It’s 19-year-old kids.”
Back in Afghanistan, Pond was assigned one of the most dangerous jobs—searching for roadside bombs that could take out an entire platoon. The one thing that kept this Marine grounded and going was his partner—a Belgian Malinois named Pablo.
“It was love at first sight,” he told NBC News. Together, he and Pablo survived countless combat patrols and over 30 firefights. And with each one and every one, their bond grew stronger and stronger.
“He was my rock, he was my foundation, all I knew was how to be deployed with this dog,” a teary-eyed Pond said.
Pond trusted Pablo with his life. As the duo spent their days risking their lives canvassing the roads in Afghanistan, Pablo became more than his partner—he became his best friend, his protector.
“He saved my life more than once.”
“It was kind of fun for a little bit, until I finally saw a casualty,” said Pond.
But after his service in the Marine Corps concluded in 2011, the best friends went their separate ways. Pond went home to Colorado and Pablo was reassigned to another Marine unit in Georgia.
Back home, Pond was diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury and began a new battle with the condition, this time, without his partner. It was a difficult time for the young man.
“Just when I finally processed everything I broke.”
Looking back on his life in an effort to find the strength to move on, he realized that his partner and best friend Pablo was always there for him. Fighting through tears, Pond said he missed his partner “every day.” That sparked the young veteran to embark on a journey to reunite with his combat partner and best friend he needed more than ever.
But the journey to get Pablo back was harder and longer than he expected.
After three long years of struggling on his own and one year with a plethora of medications and psychotherapy, Pond admitted he needed his long-lost combat partner and sought out support in a petition to the United States Marine Corps on Change.org. He wrote, “our bond and the experience we share will help me make progress in my recovery and find happiness once again.”
Then in 2015, came his long-awaited wish. After writing letters to politicians, cutting through red tape, and garnering 186,649 signatures on Change.org, Pablo was finally released from service and an ecstatic Pond was able to adopt him.
“You are truly man’s best friend. Mission complete, Marine!”
His canine companion was honorably released from military duty.
“I don’t have kids but it’s my son,” Pond said. It seems that Pablo saved his partner in more ways than one. “It’s the closest thing to a son I have.”
If you were touched by this story, please share it with your friends and family.