Bringing Hero Home: Soldier's Puppy Gives Hope to Grieving Family

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"I said, I want one of the puppies that Justin held in Iraq the night before he was killed. 'Rhonda, we can get you any dog you want. We'll get you a puppy, just name it, we'll get it.' I want one of those puppies that Justin held. And he just looked at me like, yeah, sure," Rhonda laughed.

A long shot that felt more like a Mission Impossible.

"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," said Rhonda.

Even Justin's comrades back in Iraq were skeptical.

"I want nothing more than to get the puppy for them, but I can't, because I'm just a soldier in the world of somebody else's. And, and they're telling me, that's not our job, you can't get the dog," said Jason.

The local newspaper got wind of Brittney and the family's efforts. Soon the front page headlines went national, and passionate public support for 'Operation Hero' helped make it a front burner issue for politicians.

"Somebody got a call, and they said, we've got to get the dog. And they weren't happy about having to get the dog, and I was just like, ' Let's go get the dog!' It's amazing that they were able to pull it off," said Jason.

It was a puppy rescue with real risks.

"I think we were all willing to take a risk, and it wasn't necessarily for the dog at the time, it was for Justin's family," said Jason.

A stray puppy living in an Iraqi war zone suddenly found herself very popular.

"We get it back, and we're cleaning it. It's probably like, what's going on, I'm in a washing machine, I was living in a toilet. She had no clue. You just wait, you'll be running through the green pastures of New Hampshire, you're going to love it," said Jason.

The puppy soon hit the tarmac, and began earning impressive frequent flier miles traveling from Iraq, Bahrain, Brussels and New York before finally landing in New Hampshire to a full-blown media circus fit for a rock star. At Congressman Paul Hodes's office, little Hero claimed the territory her own.

"She christened the carpet," remembered Rhonda.

"One of the biggest decisions for wanting to get Hero out of Iraq was to honor him by saying, this is the last life that he saved, so that's the importance and the love that we have for this dog," said Skip.

"And she gave him the last bit of happiness, by the smiles on his face, when he was holding her, it's just beautiful," Rhonda said.

On the day of our shoot, "20/20" was able to witness something beautiful also. One of our cameras captured a dramatic sunbeam shining down on Hero in Justin's backyard.

"I truly, truly believe I'll see him again, because he sent us a sign so many times that, that he's OK things that are too astronomical to not believe," Skip said.

For more on the incredible story of Justin & Hero, watch Animal Planet's series "Saved" on Monday nights: http://animal.discovery.com/tv/saved/

Watch the full story on "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

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