20-year-old Donny Eslinger was serving in Afghanistan when he stumbled upon a tiny stray puppy. He instantly fell in love with the dog he named Smoke, placed him in his backpack, and headed back to camp. Just a day earlier, another member of Donny’s platoon was killed; Smoke was a timely blessing who boosted the soldiers’ morale and renewed Donny’s faith while overseas.
A month later, Donny was seriously injured in a mortar fire attack. He lost his spleen, suffered a chest wound, a head injury, broken ribs and a broken leg. He was also separated from Smoke, who was forced to remain in Afghanistan where he faced constant danger without his savior by his side.
At the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, President Obama presented Donny with a Purple Heart for being injured in the line of duty. But there was a hole inside Donny’s heart that could not be filled, and that was the loss of Smoke. Donny’s father, Seminole County sheriff Don Eslinger Sr., made it his mission to reunite Donny with the dog in the hope it would help heal his son’s deep emotional scars.
With the help of the 1-24 Infantry Battalion of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Donny’s family raised enough money to fly Smoke to Florida. In the video below, watch as the the seven-month-old puppy arrives at Orlando International Airport before reuniting with Donny for good. Please SHARE this amazing story with your friends on Facebook!
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