Sergent lay gasping for air. His lungs filled with smoke. His nose was dry to the touch. Lying on his side, ribs digging into his soul he fights to make it. Refusing to give up what he is taught, to win.
To be patted on the head, have his belly rubbed. To get his favorite treats, to hear his master’s words of praise, this is what Sergent lived for.
Born on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio Sergent was one of six pups. Bottle fed and being the runt of the litter made his life a struggle from the moment of his first breath. Yet he thrived out of the entire littler. One other pup, who had been born first, died.
Thus, he was named Sergent because he was a born fighter and survivor. Handled with care and a gentle push to be the best he grew into a well-rounded happy pup. At a young age Sergent was taken one day into the strong and yet somehow comforting hands of a giant.
It only took a few days of his new master showing love when Sergent began to follow Mike where ever he was allowed to go. Sergent was eager to show Mike that he loved him. He wanted to earn his respect.
The young pup and his owner worked and played hard on a daily routine. Hard runs, training and lots of treats. Firm commands and frisky playing made Sergent the best damn dog Mike had ever trained.
It wasn’t long that when Mike woke up in the mornings Sergent was already a wake with one eye on his master waiting for breakfast and a full day of activities. When Mike attended to the other animals on the property Sergent was right there, making sure Mike did it all right.
The two friends could recognize each others moods by a certain tone in voices, or a slowness in walk. These two ate their meals at the same time and slept in the same bed.
One day their time was up. With tears in Mike’s eyes and a whimpering for his master, Sergent was handed over to another pair of hands. These hands were worn and blistered but steady. The leash held firmly yet with a gentleness and pride. Sergent couldn’t help but keep looking back as he was commanded to get into the jeep. From the moment the engine was started until there was not one speck in sight, Sergent stared after Mike.
When he could no longer see his master, Sergent laid down on the seat, trying to nap, thinking of the face he had grown to love. When they got to his new home, it was hot and very dry. Instantly his tongue started to droop but before he could try to swallow; a large bowl of water was placed in front of his face.
Sergent looked up at this stranger and thanked him with his eyes. Another bowl was placed beside the water bowl. Dog food mixed and wetted with table scraps. Once again Sergent looked up into those eyes and caught a familiar sight. A smile with pearly white teeth. Their eyes met and from that moment forward there was a connection.
Sergent would never forget Mike, but now that he was with Frank, he knew he was safe. The following day new classes were introduced to Sergent, who by now was a machine-made out of firm muscle. Strong legs stood at attention. Tail, sleek and smooth, head poised, and yet standing tall at attention.
These classes were a harsher training. No more rough housing. Training for sniffing out enemy bombs. Hidden trenches full of enemies. Sergent and Frank didn’t have the same kind of relationship that he and Mike did.
In this relationship he was named King, a nickname by the platoon for his excellent work. At chow time Sergent sat at the doorway of the tent but with a click of a finger he was at the side of anyone who was willing to give up a bit of their own food.
In no time at all, Sergent was allowed to venture ahead of the troop, clearing the way for progress. Day after day King kept his buddies safe and secure. Friends and family members sent King more packaged gifts than the troop. He became the first one to be in line at mail call.
It was a happy family. Hard work, early to bed, good food and a nice comfortable bed made out of old blankets.
King had lived with his platoon for nearly a year when the tragic accident happened. He missed his mark. No one knows what happened. Was it the change in air? Was it too much dust and sand? Was King not feeling well that day? There were no answers.
All I was told was that King walked into a sand pit filled with grenades. He lay there breathing hard. His lungs filled with sand. His nose dry. Their eyes met. There were no smiles. Instead there were tears coming from Frank’s eyes. Sergent heard the compassion in his owner’s voice. The love between the two forced King to give it all he had. To fight for his life.
He fought hard. Given sips of water, pats on the head, and a new blanket to cover his body, Sergent gave his last breath and his life for his troop. Hats lowered, knees bent, in the heat of the sun, men mourned.