Many are the paths that bring healing to our wounded veterans, from surgery to sports to spiritual care. Another that is a “fur-st” for ACV is the feline. The company of two beloved cats is the best medicine for Andy, a brave soldier who was nearly blown up in Afghanistan several weeks ago and who is recovering in Alaska with his wife and his pets, Chloe and Stella.
The request came to Robin Cron, our mission coordinator, from Springfield, Virginia, on Monday, June 18. It was an email from Jan, the friend and co-worker of Andy’s mother-in-law. She explained that Andy was seriously injured by an IED blast while on foot patrol. His wife, Sam, “got a phone call early on May 6—he actually called from triage,” Jan wrote in her email note. “He was in shock, so not able to tell her much other than the fact that nothing was missing: ‘I have all my body parts.’”
After being treated in Landstuhl, Germany, he was sent to Washington State and then to Alaska, where his unit is based. Sam traveled to be there by his side. She had been living in Springfield with her parents and Chloe and Stella, and attending college while Andy was deployed overseas. The kitties were wedding presents to the couple when they married in 2009.
“He desperately wants his two cats that are in Springfield,” Jan’s email continued. “So much so that they are trying to figure out a way for him to get a four-day pass so they can fly back to get the cats. He talks to the cats in his sleep. Emotionally, they would probably help with his recovery. Would this be the type of situation your organization could help with?”
After that, Robin and Toni Russell (with American Airlines) went to work to try and arrange travel for Chloe and Stella to Anchorage. It was a complicated task due to routing, timing and weather (heat) issues. “On Tuesday it wasn’t going to happen with American,” Robin said. “But by Tuesday afternoon, it was going to happen” due to many parties joining together to help a wounded warrior get his “kids.”
Stella and Chloe left Reagan National Airport, escorted by USO representative Katie Whitlow who had flown in from North Carolina to oversee handling of the animals, crated in the belly of the jet and carefully monitored due to the intense heat. On arrival in Dallas, American Airlines employee Danny Santiago arranged for the cats to be the first taken off the plane and put in a quiet, air-conditioned area. Toni Russell went down to the ramp as the loading was taking place and wrote in an email, “They looked very relaxed and comfortable. Very princess-like.”
Jackie Baer sent an email to ACV, too, saying, “I have been crying off and on all day. I am so glad you understand that these animals are our family—and don’t think I am a crazy old lady! Danny told me that when Sam has the cats safely in her possession, I am to call him no matter what time, even in the middle of the night, because he wants to know ‘our precious cargo arrived safely.’”
As you can see from the picture, Andy is purr-fectly happy to be in the company of Stella (Chloe isn’t in this one). Winston Churchill’s quote, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” could as easily be applied to the two felines who traveled four thousand miles to be there for their greatest hero.
Miles of Meows Lead to Happy Reunion