NASHVILLE — Two stray dogs in Afghanistan that found comfort and companionship with a company of U.S. soldiers are poised to leave the war zone behind. As the troops prepare to exit, their spouses have raised nearly $6,000 to fly the dogs to the United States.
A Facebook post has spread the word, and donations are flowing in to pay the costs of transporting the dogs — Smiley and OP1 — from Afghanistan. Their destination: Fort Campbell, the big Army base on the Kentucky-Tennessee line, and a new, peaceful life with the families of some of the soldiers.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, was one of the units dispatched to Afghanistan last year to secure that country from a resurgent Taliban. They are expected to begin leaving the country this summer.
Sonya Luedeman, wife of Spc. Jason Luedeman — a medic in Charlie Company, 1-61 Cavalry — said her husband couldn't stop talking about a dog that had followed the soldiers back to their fire base in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers called him OP1, after the outpost where they found him.
"The dog just made everyone happier," Sonya Luedeman said. "He really was like a cohesive part of the unit. He would tell me that every time OP would see the guys gear up for a patrol he would run outside to make sure they didn't leave him behind."
Dogs generally have a hard life in war-torn Afghanistan. Someone had cut off OP1's ears and he was malnourished when the soldiers found him.
OP1 became "friends" with Smiley, a female dog hanging around the base, Sgt. Mark Webber said in an e-mail from Afghanistan. The dog got the name because she looks like she's grinning.
Webber said the soldiers recently learned that Smiley is pregnant, which complicates plans to transport her. They are trying to raise about $2,000, the remaining expense for Smiley's flight.