Marine veteran seeking military honors for bomb-detection dog

Photo from Matt O'Hara
Photo from Matt O'Hara(WDBJ)
Published: May. 11, 2019 at 3:08 PM EDT
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Sgt. Matt O’Hara and his war dog Rocky walked the same path, breathed the same air and fought the same battles.

“I don’t know how many times I put my boot prints in his paw prints because I trusted him," O’Hara said.

In 2010, O’Hara and Rocky were deployed to Afghanistan. Rocky was trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices guiding and protecting O’Hara and his fellow troops on every mission.

“We would either be called up to the front to clear a path or we would just clear the whole path for convoys or foot patrols,” O’Hara said.

An injury would send O’Hara home with out Rocky after just one tour in Afghanistan, but his wife, Erin O’Hara, said their bond was unimaginable.

“It was irreplaceable,” Erin said. “They relied on each others’ livelihoods at that point.”

It was a bond so great that O’Hara had it arranged that he be reunited with Rocky after he retired from his two tours in Afghanistan, but two years after returning from war, Rocky had one more battle to face.

“He had liver cancer that had spread throughout his abdomen and attached itself to various other organs,” O;Hara said. “They took out 70 percent of his liver, but what was left was still compromised, so we knew Rocky was probably on borrowed time.”

For three months, the O’Haras racked up thousands of dollars in crippling debt from treatment and surgery doing everything they could to save the canine who saved him so many times.

O’Hara said being on the battlefield was tough, but perhaps the hardest part of war or life is knowing when the fight is over.

Thursday, trading the trenches for the trunk of his car, O’Hara huddled up one last time with his companion before making the hardest decision of his life, to finally relieve this Marine’s best from the call of duty.

“When is enough?” O’Hara said. “When are you doing it for the dog and when are you doing it for yourself?”

Rocky was taken to the Ashland Veterinary Hospital to be put down.

All O’Hara wants now is for Rocky to be buried with with military honors befitting a war dog who fought side by side with him.

“It was our job to take his pain away,” O’Hara said.

“It was time for Rocky to experience true freedom, which he deserves,” Erin said.

Matt and Erin say they are looking for anyone who can help Rocky receive military honors at his burial.

In the mean time, the community is stepping up with an online fundraiser to help them with vet costs.

If you would like to help the family in their efforts you can do so here.

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