- She's 100% become part of the family.
Although it took a few months, it's nice to see how she's finally grown into her own here, and she recognizes that this is home and no longer just a pit stop in a journey that she doesn't know that she's on.
- Hi, I'm Shain Brenden.
As a veteran, I understand how objects we brought back from service can be so meaningful.
They can remind us why we served and what we did or help us transition back to civilian life.
Today I talk with a veteran whose object isn't so much a thing as it is, well, a special friend.
Hey, thanks for sitting down with me, man.
I appreciate it.
- Yeah, no problem.
- Tell the folks a little bit about yourself.
Your background, where you're from and how you ended up in the service.
- My name's Amjad Kirrish.
AJ for short.
I've been in the Air Force now for 10 and a half years.
I'm attached to Army combat units and I coordinate direct air strikes for them.
Most recently, I was deployed in Syria in Operation Inherent Resolve.
- Deployment is hard on anyone.
So what was your mindset in the early days of getting in and just trying to get acquainted to just being in Syria?
- The biggest stresses for me was the responsibility I had of controlling multimillion dollar aircraft, employing thousands of pounds of bombs, all while ensuring that no civilian casualties, no collateral damage and no friendly forces were negatively impacted by it, and having all that responsibility coupled with just the crappiness that comes with a deployed environment - little things that we take for granted, like running water, showering and toilet facilities that are decent.
And I'm sure you experienced it downrange where the shower curtain like touches your leg, and you freak out.
You now have to wash yourself with acid because the shower curtain just touched your leg.
- How'd you meet Harley?
How'd Harley come into your life?
- Once I got on the camp, the team had actually already rescued Harley.
They were out on patrol.
They ended up finding her at one of the Bedouin camps, and she was just the last puppy of her litter.
Things weren't looking too good for her to actually survive.
So they brought her onto the camp.
It was nice to see her when I first got there because all you have is a two-month-old puppy full of energy, just running around.
All she wanted to do is say hi to everyone.
I just started getting closer and closer to her.
That attachment happens all the time, and I think a lot of times is because of the environment.
It's usually high stress.
You end up seeing what people are willing to do to each other.
You do become callous.
Having Harley kind of alleviated that, seeing something so innocent, this pup that just wants to play.
She just wants to, you give her a treat, and she's now your best friend.
- I wanted to talk a little bit about actually getting Harley out of Syria.
- I actually went with her out of Syria into Jordan, and this was all during COVID.
So Jordan had completely shut down all their airports.
So the Alamal Foundation kept her in the sanctuary for two months.
- Oh wow.
Now, how was that for you?
Did you start to feel a little anxious or maybe just second guessing whether or not you would actually be able to get her stateside?
- The biggest issue is actually when she arrived in New York.
The CDC had denied her entry, stating that there was a clerical error in her vaccinations and her paperwork.
And the CDC wanted her to be sent back to the Middle East right away.
Just the "what ifs" started flowing through my head, and it was not a good feeling.
The organization Paws of War reached out to the media, and we started doing this media campaign, and the outpouring of support was amazing.
Every major news organization got involved.
- Tonight a plea from a veteran who rescued a puppy from overseas.
Harley- - And started putting the story out there of how this veteran who saved this puppy was being denied.
When I did finally see her, it was nerve-wracking at first thinking I hope she recognizes me.
- Opened the door and she was a little cautious at first, but immediately after, she recognized me, and it was such a joy to see her, for her to recognize me.
And then I took her to the back, and her favorite game is just to play chase.
So just grabbed something, threw it.
She ran around, and I chased her, and it was like, we didn't skip a beat.
It was kind of a sigh of relief to feel like, okay, it's done.
She's home now.
- What's up, little lady.
Oh, wow, she's big.
How old is she now?
- She is a little over a year.
The deployment will still be the deployment.
Coming home will always still be coming home.
But I can't imagine what it would have been like had Harley stayed.
I would have always had that "what if" or where is she at?
Is she okay?
Is she still alive?
And so Harley coming home, it felt like the deployment was finally over and closed, and it was a happy ending as opposed to a "what if" ending.
Not knowing what would have happened to Harley would have just crushed me.
So having her home, it was perfect.
I can't imagine a life without her.