The Pentagon is supposed to give combat veterans who were dog handlers the chance to purchase their dogs and take them home after deployment, but this is The Pentagon we’re talking about and they have a knack for bungling things from time to time. Julio Muñoz fought in Afghanistan alongside Ben, his combat-trained dog who would root out IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
After completing his deployment requirement in Afghanistan Julio Muñoz was not given the chance to purchase Ben and take him home, instead the Pentagon sold Ben to a civilian named Kim Scarborough, 52. She found Muñoz’s name on Ben’s deployment papers, and with the help of The NYPost they were able to reunited Julio Muñoz with the dog that saved his life on more than one occasion.
Julio Muñoz agreed to meet Kim Scarborough and reunite with Ben, but said he couldn’t take Ben home because the dog had been with Scarborough for 3 years, he was happy, and because Ben had been through too much already. When first contacted by The Post Kim Scarborough said exactly what we all would if put in her situation “If the handler wants Ben, it belongs to him. Period, the end.”
I’d like to say that this is one of those ‘you can never go look at a litter of puppies without taking one home’ situations, but this is so much more than that. This is a combat-trained dog who had saved Julio Muñoz’s life on more than one occasion, a dog that had stuck with him, side-by-side, in the heat of combat to keep Julio Muñoz calm. This was Ben. Was he really not going to take his dog home?
Bounding out of Scarborough’s car toward Muñoz, Ben was overwhelmed, running back and forth between the two. Soon, he settled, and took to Muñoz’s daughter, Mia, 5, and 9-month-old son, Ethan.
It quickly became clear that Muñoz was Ben’s master.
“Loose!” he would say, and Ben would drop what was in his mouth.
“Oh, so that’s how you get him to do that,” Scarborough said.
Questions followed: Why did Ben respond to German? He had been trained in Germany. Why are tennis balls his favorite toy? Muñoz trained him with tennis balls, using them as rewards. Why was Ben so good with kids? He was a fighter, Muñoz explained, but always sweet, comforting soldiers when they were stressed out.
“He’s happy with you,” he said, trying to contain his emotions. “I don’t want to take that away from him.”
“I didn’t go to war with him,” Scarborough said. “It’s different.”
“That’s all right,” Muñoz said. “We have some good memories. He’s a fighter. He never gives up.”
Scarborough was silent for a few moments, but said, “I think he needs to take Ben home,” and walked to her car to gather Ben’s things.
“Julio,” his wife said, “you want to take the dog home?”
By now, Muñoz’s face was flushed, his eyes teary.
“He’s done so much, been through so many things. I don’t want to take him home,” he said.
He looked at Ben, who looked right back.
“Come on,” Muñoz told him. “I’ll take you home.”
I didn’t plan on crying while writing out my first blog post of the day, but here I am, with tears welling up in my eyes.
Bros, make sure you hug your dogs and thank your soldiers whenever you get the chance.