Dec. 12, 2005 -- Military people take pride in looking out for each other -- include dogs in that. Bomb-sniffing dog Rex may soon get an early discharge from the Air Force, thanks to his handler, Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana, and to members of Congress who couldn't resist a heartwarming story.
Last June, Dana, 26, had just completed a mission in Iraq with Rex, a German shepherd. Dana and Rex, whom she called her best friend, were together in a Humveee when a roadside bomb exploded. Dana was seriously wounded with internal injuries. As help arrived, she asked pleadingly whether Rex had survived. Then she passed out.
When she awoke, Dana was told Rex was dead. But by the time she was sent for recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dana learned that Rex had been burned on his nose, but was otherwise in good shape.
Dana set to work to adopt her buddy. After all, they had worked together for three years including a tour in Pakistan. Air Force officials were sympathetic, but said they were stymied by regulations. By law military dogs cannot be adopted until they are considered too old for useful duty. The official retirement age is 10 to 14 years. Rex is only 5 years old. There was only one recourse: change the law.
Dana and Rex found they had powerful allies. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, R-Va., told Dana he would try to change the law as part of a $441.3 billion defense authorization package. In the House, Republican John Peterson and Democrat John Murtha, both from Dana's home state of Pennsylvania, gave their support. Under a measure approved last Thursday by House-Senate negotiators, the military will have the authority to waive adoption rules for dogs. Congress may pass the authorization bill this week, and send it to President Bush for his signature.
Dana is recuperating on her Pennsylvania farm. Soon Rex might be free to join her.
"I can see so much therapy in having her friend Rex there to heal with her," Peterson said.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Post: "Everyone agrees this is the right thing to do." At a time when Congress is bitterly divided in partisanship over many issues, including defense matters, Ullyot said lawmakers this time used their "common sense."