Many are the paths that bring healing to our wounded veterans, from surgery to sports to spiritual care. Would you believe a “fur-st” for Air Compassion for Veterans were cats? That’s right, the company of two beloved cats (Stella and Chloe) were the best medicine for Andy, a brave soldier who was nearly blown up in Afghanistan.
Jan, a friend of mine from church was a 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. Andy was in shock, and 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 with Sam right by his side. She had been living in Springfield, VA with her parents and Chloe and Stella attending college while Andy was deployed overseas. The kitties were wedding presents to the couple when they married in 2009.
Jan told me that Andy desperately wanted his two cats so much so that he and Sam were trying to figure out a way for Andy to get a four-day pass so they could fly back to Virginia to get the cats. Andy would talk to the cats in his sleep. Emotionally, they would probably help with his recovery. I asked Jan to call ACV and see if we could assist. She did.
After that, Robin, mission coordinator with ACV, and Toni Russell (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.
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, Andy’s mother-in-law, sent an email to ACV, 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 had 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).