Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Forty two years later, with a tear in his eye, John still remembers Bandit, a frightened, starving puppy he first met deep in the jungles of Vietnam. “Bandit was a tiny little thing, struggling like most to just survive life in this war torn country.” When John reached down and scooped this little puppy into his arms, life changed for both of them. During John’s service, Bandit went everywhere with him. John made a promise to the pup that he would always take care of him and make sure he was safe - no matter what.

I met John at the rehab hospital. As Gracie and I were signing out, John was at the reception desk asking about an ‘old army buddy' who was hospitalized there. He instantly was drawn to Gracie, resplendent ( I love that word) in her royal blue vest decorated with the American flag and the Soldier’s Angel pin. He asked about her and what she did at the hospital. I told him all about her work and mentioned that she spent a great deal of time with the wounded soldiers at BAMC. John shared about his little dog at home and how he was ‘more people than dog.’ Then, as if a ghost had entered the room, the conversation took a completely different turn and memories of another time and place surfaced.

We walked together out of the hospital and John told me about the ‘war room’ in his home, and about the only photo that he had had enlarged and framed after his tour in Vietnam, - a photo of Bandit-  the only thing he wanted to remember.

Then, as if it were yesterday, he solemnly told me of one dark night in Vietnam when his platoon was in the jungle under heavy gunfire from the enemy. Bandit had been left in the vehicle when the attack came. “Bullets were flying over us and all I could hear was Bandit crying. I wanted to go get him, but my buddies yelled at me that I would be killed.” “You’ll never make it. Don't do it!”

“I told them to ‘cover me’ as I ran to the jeep to get the puppy. I knew I might not make it, but I couldn’t let him die.” He reached the puppy and grabbed him up into his arms. He said Bandit was 'shaking and crying and peeing all over himself,' he was so scared.   John never thought twice; he had made a promise. “We were a team. He was my buddy.”

The time came for John to leave Vietnam. He gave Bandit to a friend that would be there for a while longer, hoping that all would have a happy ending. A few months after arriving home, he heard from his friend that he too had fallen in love with the pup and had managed to get Bandit to the states. “I never heard from them again. But my promise to Bandit had been kept.”

As John walked me to my car, I thanked him for sharing his beautiful story with me. As he reached down to pet Gracie one last time, the look in his eyes told me he was thinking of another dog many, many years ago that had touched his heart in an extraordinary way. A dog whose life he had saved, and in many ways had saved his.

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to keep a promise.

"Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep."
~Denis Waitley~

"All that is worth cherishing begins in the heart, not the head."
~Suzanne Chapin~

"Seasons change, friends move away, and life goes on from day to day. Flowers fade and streams go dry and many times we wonder why. Yet we can always be assured because God tells us in His Word, that unlike changes in the weather, love goes on and lasts forever!"
~Author Unknown~



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