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A Marine and his Dog

August 9th dawned scalding and dry across the Marjeh district of Helmand province, Afghanistan. In the blocks, a fertile swath of land watered by a canal network stretching dozens of square kilometers, farmers roused their mules early in order to complete ploughing before their relatives came visiting for Ramadan. A convoy of marines, accompanied by Afghan Local Police, rattled down a dusty strip between fields known as Panther road.

Corporal David Cluver and his black lab, Archie, sat in the back of one the humming tan personnel carriers that rumbled through the western blocks that morning. They were on their way to set up a vehicle checkpoint, to count cars and see how many travelers would be passing through the region during the Muslim holy month. Archie, three and a half years old, bore the uncomfortably nested acronym-title of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) Detection Dog, or IDD (often called “IDD dog”, a more comfortable redundancy).

As they established the checkpoint, the local police deputies informed the marines that they had heard an explosion last night not far from their post, a kilometer and a half up the road. The marines had heard nothing, which was unusual. Corporal Cluver’s squad was dispatched to investigate.

“When we got up near the post my squad leader asked me if I wanted to go check it out and I said yes, because there’s a lower danger factor for the marine when you’re using a dog,” Cpl. Cluver recalled. “A dog has a better range than a metal detector, obviously, as long as he’s downwind.”

As they neared the intersection, Cpl. Cluver allowed Archie to range ahead, sniffing at the ground and roadside ditches. But Cluver had some difficulty getting Archie to turn at the corner and head up the crossing path. “I wasn’t sure if he had something he wanted to check out or if he just wanted to pee on something. So I thought if I got a little closer I could get him to turn and hunt up the path.”

Cluver took three steps towards Archie before the dog turned on the spot and lay down, known as ‘covering,’ the IDD dog signal for having detected explosives. Cluver froze, but only for a split second. Archie had lain down directly on the pressure plate of an IED. The bomb detonated beneath him.

RIP Archie. Thank you for saving the lives of your fellow Marines.

Used with permission. (C) Lawrence Dabney

Don’t miss Part II of this story here.

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51 thoughts on “A Marine and his Dog

  1. Elizabeth Foster

    This is so sad, it breaks my heart when one of the dogs die. God Bless Archie and Corporal David Cluver. I no it broke his heart to, i’m setting here crying. Thank you for sharing this Kevin. God bless each and every soldier and K-9 in this war.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Elizabeth I’ve had this story for a spell and haven’t posted it because it so sad. But I felt it needed to be shared. Everyone should know what the 4-legged Warriors are doing for our country.

      Reply
      1. Sandra

        Hi Kevin,
        Thank you so very much for telling us about the Marine and Archie who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his team mate and friend. RIP Archie. And thank you to those who helped train Archie to be “all he could be.”

        Reply
        1. Lynda Lawson

          Having lost my Shepherd of 16 years, it reminded me of the times she saved my life (literally) and the heartbreak of losing her to age. I’d love to adopt a retired dog who deserves pampering in his/her retirement. Thank you so so much for sharing and your service, ( sacrifice) for all of us.

          Reply
  2. Lucia

    Wow. A sad reminder that Our Troops ,man and dog, put themselves at risk all the time and that those emotions don’t go away. These stories need to be told. Keep telling. I ‘m reading!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thanks Lucia….. this is a brutal reminder of what happens over there…..too many times we just see the cutsie pictures.

      Reply
  3. Linda

    This is so sad. I know that their job is to protect our troops but every time I hear/read about one of our dogs losing their lives in the line of duty, I just cry. I know that it is better than losing soldier lives but it is still so sad. Our dogs will do anything for us.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Linda. I agree 100% and we say it with a very heavy heart…..these dogs give their lives so our troops can live.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Military Working Dog Archie Saves a Marine’s Life « Off The Base

  5. Tina

    I bet Archie received a gracious welcome to heaven for saving his fellow soldier’s lives! May God Bless you Archie, you are a hero, giving the ultimate sacrifice and those Marine’s whose lives you saved, will never forget you – neither will those of us who were touched by your story.

    Reply
  6. Anita David

    My heart aches for Archie and for Colonel Culver. So very, very sad. As a contractor, I met a number of these dogs in Afghanistan…what a heartache.

    Reply
  7. Pamela Anhorn

    My sympathies go out to you!!! A courageous dog to the brutal end…. There are so many thoughts going through my head… I don’t have any words to express the sorrow you must be going through…. I know I would be in misery…. again… My DEEPEST condolences to you!!! RIP Archie… Say HI to my boy LITTLEONE at the rainbow bridge for me will ya!!!!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Pamela. Thank you. I can only imagine how those Marines felt that day knowing that their little pal Archie had taken that blast for them. Those are the things you never forget.

      Reply
  8. Roann

    This is so sad. I have tears in my eyes. What a brave dog! And the armed services list them as equipment (I know this is changing, but not fast enough). This dog made the ultimate sacrifice because he loved his soldier. “A dog is the only thing who loves you more that himself.” Rest in peace, Archie.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Roann. Thank you. Archie certainly loved his fellow Marines unconditionally.

      It looks like our dogs aren’t changing to members of the armed service. This morning I was just writing a new post about what happened to the act. I hope to post it next week.

      Reply
  9. Sandy, Soldiers Angels, Oregon

    Your loss must be really, really hard for you. They are more than just a “dog”. Each one is a special and loving creature of God, and was given to you for just the reason he died for. He was there to protect you, and all of the other soldiers. He was incapable of being selfish. He needed to walk ahead of you. He needed to take those slow steps to make sure his friends would be okay. I know Archie cannot be replaced, but know that he is sitting right next to you and looking up at you, cocking his head to the side as if to say, “Hello!”. Please know that you will see him again, and thank you so much for everything you have done for all of us.

    Sincerely,

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Sandy. I know you are right….. Archie wanted to be out there protecting his fellow Marines. He wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way.

      Reply
  10. Robin Nelson Cross

    My dad served 3 tours in the Vietnam War…he said the hardest thing he’s ever done, other leaving his family to go over there…was leaving his dog over there to come back here…for the final time…NEVER to see his German Shepherd again!!! RIP Archie!!

    Reply
  11. aj Melnick

    That really hurts, Kevin. I guess I have to look at the big picture, but still I ache inside for that wonderful, trusting dog.

    Reply
  12. Liz Thomas

    I must admit I was totally not prepared for that ending. Caught me by surprise. What an amazing animal! I have two dogs one of which is a lab who replaced two previous labs. Dogs are such loyal, trustworthy, smart, joyous distractions in our lives. I couldn’t imagine life without them! They love us unconditionally and this certainly showed that!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      They sure do Liz. I have a second part to this story that I will get to postinig. It details the… “after” part of CPL Cluver.

      Reply
  13. Tracey

    Had to go and take a tearful five before I could write this. Reminds me of when a friend was walking my by then old and arthritic staffy cross in a park and someone tried to mug him. My girl, who had never as much as growled at anyone in her life, went for the mugger when he hit my friend. The mugger kicked her in the head, sending her spinning through the air. But she came back and saw him off.
    They are our friends, family and comrades, and when they lay down their own safety or lives for us, we feel it the same as we would any friend, family member or comrade. I know Archie won’t be forgotten and I know his comrades were devastated at his loss.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      That is a great story Tracey! Thank you for sharing. I often wonder about my dogs because they are so friendly. Would they kick butt for me if I needed them? I think they would….they are fiercely loyal creatures.

      Reply
  14. Michael Donchey

    Poingant story. Gosh, facing the realities of war. Archie’s ultimate sacrifice is heartbreaking. I love these dogs and I’m proud of the work you guys do with all the MWDs. God Bless the troops and Archie.

    Reply
  15. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Thanks Michael. I ended part I there for a purpose….. sometimes we need to be reminded of the sacrifices our troops (2 and 4 legged are making) It is heart breaking but also reality.

    Reply
  16. Patricia Wylie

    This makes me sooooo sad to think one of our wonderful search dogs lost his life, when are we going to get everyone out of there, so this won’t happen again.??? I pray for the dogs and handlers every day, I wish everyone could come home today.

    Reply
  17. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Patricia. It pains me to learn of any of our troopers lives…..2 legged and four. Interesting talks in the news about a complete pullout in 2014……

    Reply
  18. Pingback: A Marine- After the Death of his Working Dog in Afghanistan | Kevin Hanrahan

  19. Katherine

    Hello Kevin – hope you’re well. These stories of courage of these MWDs are so touching, always makes me shed a tear. Archie was and always will be a Hero. God Bless Archie and the men of the 3/6 Marines. Sending prayers to all of them. Thanks for sharing Kevin.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Katherine. Thank you. Archie is just one of many Marines who has given their life for our country. We keep their memory alive by telling their story.

      Reply
  20. Patty

    Dear Kevin,
    RIP Archie. Being the dog lover you are, Kevin, I’m sure you’ve heard about the “Rainbow Bridge.” If not, check it out on line. It is a terrific reminder of how wonderful animals are in our lives. I know Archie will be waiting for Corporal Culver to join him many years from now at the “Rainbow Bridge.” I’ve experienced the pain of losing a furry friend and my heart goes out to those men and women who have had to endure such grief especially when they lose a friend who has saved their life.
    Thank you, Kevin for this blog. Be safe.
    Patty

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      I have heard of Rainbow Bridge……thanks for mentioning it here though Patty.

      I do believe you are right! If I couldn’t imagine a heaven without dogs.

      Reply
  21. Cristin

    Wow. Thanks for sharing all sides. Even though it’s hard, it’s great to see a story about true brotherhood. These animals are warriors, too! God Bless them!
    My son is almost 16 and has passionately wanted to be a Marine for the last 2 years. He has not changed his mind, like everyone reassured me he would, he’s only become more committed as he’s matured! He’s spoken to many current / retired Marines, read books, etc… as we don’t have a military background in our family. He was 100% Grunt / infantry minded until the last 4 mos.– now he’s thinking he can still be out there up front, but also work in this role with the dogs. He LOVES dogs and has done some training here at home. This story didn’t cause him to back down, but only made him more committed to the cause. I guess they really are “born this way”… Little things like this reassure me it’s meant to be. Thank you for helping me see this.

    Reply
  22. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

    Hi Cristin. It is truly an honor to share this hero’s story.

    The permanent working dog program in the Marine Corps is based within their Military Police. So if this is what your son wants to do then he should think about becoming a Marine MP. Marines also send their Marines directly to the handler course after initial training so he could get on a dog pretty quickly.

    I with him the best of luck. The military is a great way to start a young adult life!

    Reply
  23. Sharon

    I waited from the time you posted this story until now to read this because I knew it would break my heart. I know that these fabulous animals are trained from birth for this purpose and they think it is a game with the reward being a Kong ball or twisted rope, and have no knowledge of the danger they are in. I am sure that Archie will be forever engraved in the memories of those that worked with him as he deserves that. Again, just broke my heart.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Hi Sharon. It curns my stomach every time I read the story. Archie was a Marine and died like one- protecting his brother and sister Marines. That is just what Marines do.

      Semper Fi Archie!

      Reply
  24. ladynra1

    Archie is a true hero! RIP Archie. Great story, Kevin…even tho it made me cry. These dogs, and their Soldiers, are tight teams who keep the rest of our soldiers safe. The four-legged warriors deserve to be taken care of, when they retire…just as our two-legged warriors should be. God bless all our troops!

    Reply
    1. Kevin Hanrahan Post author

      Thank you! :-)

      I hope we will ge there sometime with the retirement. Change never happens quickly though.

      Reply
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