Thank you to everyone rallying behind my dog and me. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota is working hard on my case and has received countless phone calls and emails regarding Ratchet's plight. Everything possible is being done to get him home. No other Congresspersons or Senators can intervene without a letter of privacy release from me and there simply isn't time to mail them out. Ratchet only has an extremely short time left in my care. We're coming home very soon... hopefully, so is Ratchet.
An update for all those concerned...
Ratchet is currently back with me at my military outpost. As far as I know, there is no immediate plan to kill him (I have brought too much attention to the issue at great personal cost). The actual monetary cost of bringing him back? Well, he ate "about 1000 dollars worth of air filters" while being cared for between his attempted escape and his return to me. He lived in a supply warehouse for a few days and I bet he was pretty bored. So at least a grand has been wasted. If he'd gotten on the plane, he never could have destroyed that government property.
It was not my direct commanding officer who put out the order prohibiting "any animal from leaving Iraq". It came from higher. Then another order came out that "no animal will be allowed to leave the COP". (COP is a small Forward Operating Base, usually in the middle of nowhere.) Between these two direct orders, I pissed a lot of people off by secretly putting my dog on a convoy and trying to get him home before anyone was the wiser. Unfortunately, someone tipped off my 1SG and a full-scale dog hunt was initiated. The guys who unwittingly disobeyed orders (ones they knew nothing about) to helped me transport him have not been charged with wrongdoing. They got him as far as Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) before Ratchet was taken. Another 3 minutes and he would have been free.
No one in my Chain of Command should be shot for this, so please stop saying that. I read it in numerous comments, and I found it very disheartening. Death is always pointless so let's not encourage any hostility. War is hostile enough. I am well aware of the countless reported and unreported deaths on all sides. None are justified. I am a mechanic and wouldn't be combat arms even if it were availible to women. I joined to try to keep people alive. Our mission here has been one of rebuilding. Heck, our welder made soccer goals for some local kids and many of the items from care packages that we couldn't use at Christmastime went out to the local population to give them a Christmas too. The Iraqi Army soldier even invite us to dinner with them sometimes. Things have been very peaceful and we haven't been mortared once in 14 months. We have the hearts and minds of the folks here, so no more talk about killing anyone, eh?
I am sad beyond comprehension to have Ratchet back. I wanted him in the arms of my parents, not back in mine here. I was exuberant when Ratchet drove away. I thought we're pulled off a major feat. I instantly started dreaming about going home to my wagging-so-hard-his-body-wiggles dog. Yes, I was definately breaking orders. Yes, I knew it. No, I could not possibly have left my dog here to die. Anyone who has every loved a dog knows that abandoning it to known harm is impossible.
The Operation Baghdad Pups program has put every possible safeguard into their program to assure that dogs and cats coming back to America are healthy and behaviorally fit to immigrate. Ratchet is not sick in any way. I would never allow him to suffer injury or illness. If he had contracted rabies (the main concern of the military), I would have given him a large dose of sleeping pills and drifted him peacefully off to doggy heaven. I won't allow an inhumane death.
Mark my words. Over my dead body- No bullet is touching my dog.
And in the meantime? I was "negatively counseled" for disobeying a direct order. This is the icing on the cake towards getting demoted. We'll find out how that turns out on the 10th when I face my demotion board. It could have been worse. I fully expected to be demoted for this. Do I deserve it? Probably. I did violate orders. Does Ratchet deserve to stay in Iraq when he has a loving home waiting for him in America? Hell no. Let my dog go!
Ratchet served America by protecting his troops as a loud alarm system for nighttime movements and by providing urgently needed moral to lonely troops (not just me!). If a citizen of, let's say Mexico for example, enlists in the U.S. Army and serves honorably, he or she gets fasttracked for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. Several people here from multiple nations have already taken advantage of this policy and become American citizens. Well, Ratchet didn't enlist, but he served honorably, and I think that should entitle him to a chance to continue that service in the States.
My plan for Ratchet is simple: take him home, train him as a service dog, and love him until his last day. Ratchet would be a valuable asset for troops back home. Who better to tell your troubles to than a dog who has been there, who won't judge you, and who will love you unconditionally no matter what you had to do to survive? Even Army mental health workers in Iraq are incorperating dogs into their therapies, with great success! Ratchet is first-line defense against PTSD and suicide. He has made me think twice about some seriously self-damaging actions several times. He really has helped me to survive.
People have asked me "why don't you just adopt a dog when you get home and forget about this one?" Is one homeless dog more valuable than another? Is an American dog to be exhaulted over an Iraq-born dog? What is that- doggy racism? This dog is loved. He has a home with me that he otherwise would not have. I very well may adopt Ratchet a companion when I get home if it is something that my family and vets advise. Ratchet's playmate here was shot because she was going into heat and attracting strays onto the COP. Would it have been so difficult to spay her instead? Ratchet will be neutered as part of the Operation Baghdad Pups program requirements, in cause you're wondering.
Bottom line, there is something you can all do to help. Put your wallet where your heart is. Donate to the Operation Baghdad Pups program at http://www.baghdadpups.com and help bring Ratchet and dozens of other Service Members' beloved animals home. That is the best thing you can contribute right now besides your support, for which I am grateful! Thank you to all the outraged people speaking out about this travesty. I very sincerely hope that Ratchet is sitting in my yard when I finally go home. Thank you.