Call it cliché, but lifelong friendships often blossom on the battlefield, whether forged in the heat of battle or cemented over the course of long deployments in foreign lands. And it’s probably no accident that these newfound friends sometimes also happen to be Man’s Best Friend. This was the case with Jesse Violante, an American soldier, and Frago, his rescued Afghan stray.
One day while out on a patrol, Jesse witnessed an alarming scenario playing out from the turret of his truck. A group of abusive locals had cornered a pariah dog, one of the many strays found throughout the region. As the crowd closed in on the terrified, underfed pup, Jesse and another soldier intervened.
The dog found a temporary home as well as a name: Frago. Short for Fragmentary Order, FRAGOs are issued whenever the situation changes during an operation. In this case, the situation involved a malnourished stray and a group of soldiers just looking to keep the peace. Over the course of the deployment, the soldiers would welcome several more additions to their growing pack, each animal plucked from a precarious situation and sheltered at their outpost.
Jesse and Frago, however, shared a special bond. And as the soldiers prepared to redeploy, Jesse realized that military regulations would prevent Frago from returning home with him. That is, until his father stepped in, perhaps saving Frago for a second time. As word of Frago’s predicament spread, concerned individuals started writing unit commanders, impassioned pleas to permit Frago to return with Jesse.
One fundraising campaign and several hundred emails later, Jesse finally welcomed Frago to his new home in the United States, where he joined the family’s existing pack of three dogs, also rescues from area shelters. Today, Frago barely resembles the half-starved stray Jesse rescued in Afghanistan. In a recent update sent to The Animal Rescue Site, the Violantes share:
“None of us can keep our hands off of him. When any of us walk into the room, he hangs out on his recliner by the front window, his tail wags wildly letting us know he loves us. After hanging out in the back yard during the rain, he comes into the house through the doggie door, rubs up against me letting me know he wants to be towel dried and hugged. What a buddy.”
The bond between service members and their pets is remarkable. So it is no surprise that, while deployed abroad, thousands of miles from their own four-legged family at home, service members befriend new canine and kitty companions.
So this Patriot’s Day, while we mourn the losses of this tragic anniversary, we can also pause for a moment to reflect on the gains and growth of the past twelve years. We can share those small stories that demonstrate the principles and values expressed in our daily lives, often in deed rather than word — actions as simple as saving a scared dog from an unruly mob.
Top: A fully recovered and settled Frago in his new home, (credit: the Violante Family); Bottom: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Holm, a military working-dog handler, rewards Zasko after his canine companion identified homemade explosive materials hidden outside an abandoned building during a patrol of Western Baghdad, (credit: Spc. L.B. Edgar / U.S. Army)