“Rest in Peace, Dear Ones” Captain William W Putney DVM, USMC (Ret)
“Every step taken brings you closer to your reason for being on earth” was one of his mother’s platitudes. She had a million of them Gavin told himself, “reading all the time will ruin your eyes by age 30” was her constant warning. At least five times a day. Hey mom you got four more to go before sunset, a book being Gavin’s constant companion gave mom plenty of voice action on that subject. He couldn’t make his mind stop wandering… was it just two years ago? How could he have wound up like this, he was supposed to have been in Hollywood, a movie star! Well anyway, trying to be a movie star, the latest version of Jimmy Stewart but instead, here I am on the edge of the world fighting a war………
Bellbrook Missouri, or Misery, he called it, was a good place to be from if you were leaving, presently he wasnt leaving. He hadn’t saved enough. Cutting and pasting a weekly newspaper setup will not make you rich was the first thing he learned about this job. Is that an excuse for leaving Bellbrook? Well if you want to be a star on the silver screen, it is. As a graduating gift his mother gave him a small gold star… “you’ve always been my star Gavin, but some of these days, others are gonna think so too!”
He was packing belongings, was in the process of inventorying them when the notice arrived that changed him from a star struck kid into something he would not recognize as Gavin Holcomb a year later. War has a way of doing that, Pearl Harbor changed Gavin and in addition, a nation was unable to comprehend the enormity of what was about to happen. But in consideration of this turn of events, one thing was immediately necessary, he had to get transferred to the Marines. He was not able to erase that poster from his mind of a blues dressed, saluting Marine, and his star dream now included this image!
I know nothing about dogs, Gavin was frazzled. He tried to make sense of his orders. A dog handler, who ever heard of such? In a war? He never owned one, his mother saw to that “filthy beasts” ……”not in my house, hair, mud, pee, no thanks!” “A lot of our recruits, Private have no experience, and neither do the dogs, so get over it”. This dog’s military ID was KVMN101, which Gavin turned immediately into Caveman. Gavin and Caveman each recognized a soul mate in the other upon introductions at Camp Lejuene. Caveman was christened with Gavin’s most prized possession, the golden star which Gavin pinned to Caveman’s vest!
An airfield in the Pacific was the objective, preparing for MacArthur’s stopover on his return to the Philippines. Clearing the caves and tunnels which had been dug into the coral island needed securing. Gavin and Caveman were the point men in most patrols but this time had gotten ahead of themselves and were separated from the rest by a half mile more or less. It was getting on for dark so the shadows in the fading light gave up dancing figures of imagination. Gavin turned and a bayonet came up with Caveman jumping between the flashing steel and Gavin, who was to have been the recipient of a fatal blow. Instead, in the matter of less than ten heartbeats, Gavin’s soul mate lay dead and the attacker’s teeth were in Gavin’s hand, his M1 useless in such close quarters. His fist was not enough to stop the attacker’s momentum and Gavin fell backwards, finding himself flying over the edge of a 20 foot drop off into the water. Salt water filled his mouth, stung his eyes, his gear pulled him down as he scrambled to find his feet on the bottom. Nothing, no bottom. So this is how it ends thought Gavin? He noticed a pole that seemed attached to other poles, a decrepit pier, it looked like. He grabbed and secured his arms to attempt pulling himself out when the whispering was heard. It was not the French of the islanders, so that meant Japanese, they sat, cigarette smoke wafting to Gavin’s nostrils. I can’t hold this position, I’m going to drown and if they see me I’ll be shot. At that moment what seemed like a log rolled under him and he marveled at that … no trees around here. He secured his feet on the log and slipped into a reverie, not quite sleep, not fully awake, then he realized the sky was lighter in the East, and the log shifted out from under when a voice inquired “how long you been down there, Marine?”
As he was being pulled he grasped a shiny golden object, secured in the Y of a bar holding the pier. A small gold star! A Log, he thought? That was no log!
Someone saved my life tonight……Twice!
Military war dogs have served alongside their handlers, bravely performing the duties that were asked of them. Their outstanding achievements were rewarded by not only Purple Hearts, but silver stars, which were later rescinded by a government who felt it was disrespectful to give medals to nonhumans. They gave their lives for their human counterparts but were not worthy enough to be recognized for their bravery.
“Rest in Peace, Dear Ones” Captain William W Putney DVM, USMC (Ret)

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