Soldier reunites with dog she rescued from Iraq


 

We love a good soldier homecoming reunion! This one is between U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern and her dog Erby whom she rescued while deployed in Iraq. Erby was flown from Iraq to Tampa while Tracy was deployed again so it’s been a long seven months since they’ve been together. Welcome to Tampa, Erby, and welcome home, Sgt. Tracy McKithern!

Posted by Tampa International Airport on Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Military reunion videos are basically a kill shot to the heartstrings, and it’s even deadlier when that reunion involves a dog.

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern, who took in a puppy that was wandering the streets near a base in northern Iraq in 2017, finally was reunited with the dog in Florida. Watch the video here.

Throw in the fact that the dog was actually a rescue that a deployed soldier in Iraq managed to get back to Florida, and even the steeliest of dark hearts would be hard pressed to survive the sight of the tail-wagging, face-licking joy of one obviously happy canine. The soldier was pretty happy as well.

That’s the case with a video of U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern, who took in a puppy that was wandering the streets near a base in northern Iraq in 2017 and through a lot of help managed to have that puppy make its way to Florida.

McKithern, a combat photographer with the 982nd Combat Camera Co., was deployed to the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center near Erbil in April 2017, according to story by McKithern’s friend and Army Sgt. Ken Scar on dvidshub.net.

McKithern encountered a mother and three puppies that started to hang around the base, starving and suffering from abuse by locals that don’t treat stray dogs kindly, according to the story. The two sibling puppies disappeared, but mom and the puppy that eventually made it to Florida, were taken in and cared for by the multinational force at the base.

As McKithern neared the end of her deployment, she recalled posting to Facebook an image of the puppy and herself “with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said.

What happened next was a flood of messages suggesting rescue organizations that could help. One such organization, Puppy Rescue Mission, came through, working with McKithern and crowd-sourced fundraising to pay the thousands of dollars needed to get the puppy to the United States.

McKithern and her colleagues in Iraq named the puppy Erby Kasima. Erby is for the nearby city of Erbil and Kasima is Arabic for “beauty and elegance.”

Shipping Erby to the United States so the two could be reunited after McKithern’s tour was over in January was a long process that began last November.

McKithern posted to her Facebook page about the day Erby arrived.

“Many tragic things happen in the world everyday. Some days it feels overwhelmingly sad and hopeless. But, every once and a while, miracles happen. Erby Kasima McKithern safely arrived at the Cargo area at the Tampa International Airport on May 12, 2018. An Iraqi veterinarian, a Peshmerga Officer, a German officer and an American enlisted soldier all worked together to put Erby in a crate November 11, 2017, to begin her long journey to her new home. Countless volunteers for a non profit organization named ” Puppy Rescue Mission” helped Erby reach her new American home. Words will never come to her mom. Miracles do happen, hope is never truly lost. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the world of another… forever.”

While McKithern returned stateside earlier in 2018, she missed Erby’s arrival until Thursday as she was deployed for a two-month stint to a base in Wisconsin.

The final reunion happened at Tampa International Airport with McKithern in her camouflage Army fatiques as her husband met her at the airport with Erby in tow.

“I don’t think Erby remembered me, but I am forever grateful to have her in my arms again,” McKithern posted to Facebook.

The reunion video, though, certainly looks like the happiest of reunions.

Richard Tribou is a Senior Content Editor for the Community Conversations Team. He can be reached at rtribou@orlandosentinel.com [mailto:rtribou@orlandosentinel.com], 407-420-5134

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