Fallen Soldier's Puppy Comes Home
CALIFORNIA – The mother of a fallen soldier says except for pictures, a puppy named DJ is all she has left of her son's legacy.
19-year-old Alex Varela died in May of 2007, when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. His mother, Rinda Pope, says her son was caring for an Army guard dog who gave birth to a puppy named DJ.
The dog was the only survivor of its litter, and it became clear to Rinda that getting the little dog stateside was what Alex would have wanted.
With the help of Alex's friend and fellow soldier, PFC Matt Alford, Operation Puppy Love was born.
But in wartime, transporting a puppy home isn't the Army's top priority – Pope and Alford were short on ideas.
Soon enough though, Alex's entire squadron got in on the project – and with the help of a local contractor and Lt. Tom Hickey, the soldiers were able to get DJ on a flight home.
On Jan. 5th, DJ landed at Dulles International Airport. A group of volunteers came together to make sure she made the remainder of the trip – a cross country trek from Washington D.C. to Orangevale, Ca. The volunteers were escorted by Defenders of Freedom and The Patriot Guard Riders.
The escort arrived soon after the holiday. A full crew of motorcycles with a minivan in tow. And inside was the little piece of her son's legacy that Rinda Pope had been waiting for.
It was mission complete following DJ's arrival. As for her mother, it is believed she is still serving in Iraq.
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