Wayne County, N.C. — It’s always a big deal when a Purple Heart recipient retires from active duty.
There are speeches and spectators and maybe even a certificate.
But at a retirement ceremony Friday at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the guest of honor was simply happy with his chew toy.
Charlie, a hard-working German shepherd, is finally getting to relax after 10 years of sniffing out trouble as an explosives detection dog for the military. He’s heading home with his handler, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Seekell.
“We love these dogs, often as if they were our own children,” Seekell said.
“Charlie is a true hero,” said Maj. Troy Jones. “He’s been a companion and, as most would say, a best friend.”
Seekell and Charlie served together in Afghanistan in 2011, and were both wounded when a bomb went off.
“The first words that came out of my mouth is, ‘Where is the dog?’ And I started calling for him,” said Seekell, who also earned a Purple Heart.
The explosion blew out Charlie's ear drums and caused some shrapnel wounds. Seekell had part of his leg amputated.
“They used to bring him up to the hospital while I was recovering, and those were some of the best days that I had,” he said.
Before he heads to Seekell’s house, Charlie will have a bit more training to get him out of the military mindset. Then he’ll be treated to a life of leisure.
“We’re a team,” Seekell said, “and we’d do it again.”