When Mike Dowling joined the Marines, he had no idea that a few short years later, he would become a military working dog handler. But, in 2004, he and his partner, German Shepherd, Sergeant Rex, were part of the first group of Marine Corps K9 units to operate on the front lines of combat since Vietnam. For their actions, they were awarded a Navy Achievement Medal.
As research for my upcoming Warrior Dog Project I've read many great books, but "Sergeant Rex: An Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog" is one of my absolute favorites! Mike's memoir has been featured in Publisher's Weekly and Hollywood Reporter's "Top Picks of the Week".
The first-hand accounts of the grueling patrols and daily near-death experiences that Mike and his sidekick, Rex, encountered were a real eye-opener into what our troops go through while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Understanding the bond that is forged between man and dog as they depend upon one another to stay alive is riveting.
Tom Mitchell, the founder of the Vietnam Dog Handler Association, and of course a Vietnam Veteran who handled a dog said, "I can honestly say that Sergeant Rex is the best book I've ever read about a dog team. Mike hits every cord perfectly. The bond of a dog team, how they work, how most others have no idea how they work, the endless rotation from unit to unit. Knowing your dog better than you know yourself or anyone else."
During his deployment with "Rex", Mike and his military working dog were welcomed wherever they served because the Marines understood they were much safer when accompanied by a dog team. It soon became evident what a valuable asset Mike and Rex were.
After returning from Iraq, while still in the inactive ready reserve, Mike was mobilized in 2008 by the Marine Corps to serve with the Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Naval Medical Center, Sand Diego detachment.
He assisted wounded warriors and their families throughout their rehabilitation process eventually becoming the detachment liaison. In his role, he created, coordinated, and facilitated all events and resources available to recovering Marines and their families, working closely with numerous non-profits and private entities including therapy and service dog organizations that placed dogs with veterans. He completed his orders and honorable demobilized from the Marines in 2010 and was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his efforts.
As a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the American Legion, he spends much of his time campaigning on behalf of veteran organizations and promoting veteran events and programs. He has raised thousands of dollars in sponsorships benefitting wounded warrior organizations. He is on the board of directors for the non-profit "Wings for Warriors" (www.wingsforwarriors.org), on the advisory board of "The American Soldier Network" (americansoldiernetwork.com), and is co-founder of the non-profit organization "Veterans in Film & Television" (www.vftla.org), which assists veterans in the film and television industry.
Today, Mike's life is quite different. Utilizing his Post 9/11 GI Bill,he completed the Acting cerfification program at UCLA Extension and is currently enrolled in their Producing certificate program. He is part of the producing team at Blue Three Productions, a veteran owned and operated production company.
And, just the other day, I received news that Sergeant Rex is now retiring from military duty! He has served his country with distinction and saved many of our troops lives! This handsome, fierless, four-legged hero, also known as "Sexy Rexy" will now get the opportunity to live out his days in a non-military setting. I don't know where he is going yet, but everyone who knows his story understands it will be a very special person or family, who has the honor of spending their days with this incredible warrior dog.
Stories like these are why I've created my WARRIOR DOG PROJECT! The story of Mike and Sergeant Rex is only one dog team's story. There are hundreds of teams like these still deployed in Afghanistan, and around the world, protecting our troops each day.
I hope as my project moves forward, more and more of you will join in to help "support the dogs who support our troops". I can't think of a better way for us to show we care.
Thank you Mike, and thank you Rexy for all you've done! You are truly heroes!
Please go to www.warriordog.co for more information on THE WARRIOR DOG PROJECT.
As always......live an inspired and patriotic week!