When Marine Sgt. Ross Gundlach served in Afghanistan, his faithful yellow Labrador, Casey, was his constant companion. During their 150 missions together “Casey never missed an explosive — she caught three before they could be detonated,” said Gundlach. He credits her for making it back home safely,.
“I promised her if we made it out of alive, I’d do whatever it took to find her,” Gundlach said.
On Friday, to his own surprise, he kept that promise with help from some sentimental state officials in Iowa.
Since leaving active duty to take classes at the University of Wisconsin this summer, Gundlach, of Madison, Wis., had been trying to adopt the 4-year-old Labrador.
He found out that Casey had finished her military service and been sent to the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office. The Lab was being used detect explosives.
Gundlach wrote to State Fire Marshal Director Ray Reynolds, explaining the intense bond he had with this Labrador. He even has a tattoo depicting Casey with angel wings and a halo, sitting at the foot of a Marine on his right forearm.
Reynolds said,”He’s been putting a case together for the last two months, sending me pictures … it just tugged on your heart,” Reynolds arranged a surprise. The first thing he did was get in touch with the Iowa Elk’s Association. They agreed to donate $8,500 to buy another dog for the agency.
“We have a motto in our association that as long as there are veterans, the Elks will strive to help them,” Iowa Elks Association president Tom Maher said.
Next, Reynolds came up with a ruse to get Gundlach to Des Moines. He told himhe needed to come to the state Capitol to plead his case in front of a “bureaucratic oversight committee.”
Gundlach arrived with his parents and Reynolds pretended the meeting had been delayed. He invited the family to join an Armed Services Day celebration in the rotunda. There, hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians were seated – all playing along with the ruse – until the beautiful yellow Labrador, Casey was brought out.
When Gundlach saw her, he put his head in his hands and cried. She licked his face, wagging her tail furiously.
“It was a total surprise,” he said. “I owe her. I’ll just try to give her the best life I can.”
Gov. Terry Branstad officially retired Casey from active duty during Friday’s ceremony, thanking the dog for a “job well done.”
“I wouldn’t be here … any kids I ever had wouldn’t exist if Casey hadn’t been here,” he said
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