All right, time for the final chapter of Marc and Anax! Take out your kleenex now and get ready.
In my recent post, Thanking a Veteran, I told you the story of Kim Edelheiser at Orchard Creek Labradors who gifted a wounded veteran with a new Labrador Retriever puppy. I thought someone might like to know that Kim does have one female puppy still available for sale.
If interested you can contact her at the Orchard Creek Labrador Facebook Page.
This is Part VIII of this story. You may wish to skip back to Part I to start reading this dramatic story from the beginning.
Army Specialist Marc Whittaker’s eyes shot open when he heard the vibrating. He rolled over and felt for his phone on the night stand.
Nothing good ever happens after midnight. That was what his mom had always said.
His phone finally lit up like a shiny beacon . He glanced down at his phone and read the text message, “please please please please Marc can you come over right now.”
The text was from Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee’s wife Katie.
What the hell was going on?
It was the middle of the night and she was texting him?
Alson had only been deployed to Afghanistan for about 23 days. What could she need so soon? He had just seen her and she had said everything was fine.
Katie had been through multiple deployments before with Alson. Heck, she was a soldier herself so she knew the deal. Of course since they had their two little boys it was even harder on her.
“Please please please please Marc can you come over right now.”
Marc was glad she had texted him, though. Sure, he was tired from working all day, but if she needed help with something he would be there no matter the time.
It’s just what soldiers do for one another. They watch over one another’s families while they are deployed.
Marc had never had a mentor like Alson and he’d been sorry to see him deploy. Even up to tp the day before he deployed, Alson had spent time working with Marc and Military Working Dog Dark. Marc was determined to make him proud. He would certify with Dark for sure that month.
Then he would email Alson proudly and savor his mentor’s praise.
It seemed like every light in the Lees’ third story apartment was lit. That was weird—it was the middle of the night.
Then he saw several government sedans parked close to their apartment stairwell. That’s when it hit him.
Those were vehicles driven by officers bearing bad news.
Alson. Something had happened to him in Afghanistan. That must be it.
Marc’s heart began to thump in his chest.
I’m sure he just got hit. A superficial wound for sure.
He’s probably at the hospital at Bagram Airbase or maybe headed back to Landstuhl here in Germany.
Alson has made it through three deployments already. I’m sure he is going to be fine, Marc thought.
Everything is under control, Marc.
Two steps at a time Marc raced up the flight of stairs. The door was partially open and he pushed it the rest of the way. He noticed several people in the room, but Marc saw just one—Katie.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks, her eyes were red and puffy. She looked at Marc, pulled her lower lip into her mouth, and simply stared at him.
It was then that Marc knew his friend and mentor, Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee, wasn’t injured.
Alson was dead.
Staff Sergeant Dick “Alson” Lee was killed in Afghanistan April 26th, 2012 when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED).
His military working dog Fibi, Navy Lieutenant Christopher E. Mosko, and Green Beret Staff Sgt. Brandon F. Eggleston were also killed in the explosion.
Alson had been in country for only 23 days and that was the first mission of his fourth combat deployment.
He is survived by his wife Katie and their two young boys, Josh and David.
One traumatic event is often enough to break a person. Two events—that can shatter people and make them a shell of their once proud selves. Not Marc Whittaker.
For Marc it was a sign. His best friend Anax nearly lost his life protecting him. Alson, his mentor and friend, was gone forever.
When is enough, enough?
Marc knew he was the only person who could answer that for himself. Sure, he wanted to go certify with Dark and make Alson proud, but he realized his passion for dog handling had left him.
This was a sign from above that dog handling just wasn’t for him any longer. He could make Alson proud in different ways.
Marc submitted his paperwork with the Army to remove his dog handler identifier and no longer works with dogs.
All except for his pal Anax who lives with him and is still his best friend.
Marc and Anax have since moved from Germany to Fort Hood, Texas.
With only 16 months left in the Army, Marc plans on separating when his enlistment is up. Once he leaves the service, he plans on taking advantage of the educational benefits he earned in the Army.
When I first read Marc and Anax’s story, I knew I had to have it on my site. Fortunately the Stars and Stripes were kind enough to allow me to use the initial story.
Then I saw Marc on Facebook (we have mutual friends) and had the idea to contact him and see if I could get an update for the website. That morphed into my first series.
More importantly it gave me the idea to find handlers to follow and write about their exploits on my website. I’ve wanted to find a way to share their stories since I was in Afghanistan and ran the dog program for U.S. Forces.
It’s very hard for me to end this story line. Marc and Anax have been part of this website since Day One. Of course, the great thing about the web is that they will always be part of the site.
Marc was my first handler and I thank him for allowing me to write about him.
Thank you for sharing your story on the site, Marc.
What I love about Marc is he takes the attitude: “Hey, this is my story. This is what is happening to me—good, bad, or indifferent—and I’m not afraid to share it.
On a professional level Marc has taught me a ton about the challenges our dog handlers go through.
Eventually I will have a dog team detachment under my direct control. Having a glimpse into their world will allow me to provide them the leadership they deserve.
-Military Working Dog Dark remains stationed in Germany where he has paired up with a new soldier.
-Retired Military Working Dog Anax lives with Marc and is spoiled rotten.
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