Brady Rusk, 12, gets a somber kiss from Eli, a bomb-sniffing military working dog, during a retirement and adoption ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 3, 2011. The Labrador retriever was assigned to Brady's older brother, Marine Corps Pfc. Colton Rusk, who was killed in Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III
3rdID8487 | February 03, 2011 |Coverage of today's adoption of Eli, a USMC infantry explosives detector dog, by the family of Marine Corps Private First Class Colton W. Rusk, a military working dog handler, who died in combat on Dec. 6, 2010, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Marine Corps granted the adoption of Eli by the parents of Pfc Rusk, Darrell and Kathy Rusk of Orange Grove, Texas.
Fallen Marine's Family Adopts His Best Friend
By Randy Roughton
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Feb. 4, 2011 – "Whatever is mine is his," Marine Corps Pfc. Colton W. Rusk wrote about Eli, his military working dog, in the final days of their deployment in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, Rusk's family helped to prove his words true when they adopted the black Labrador retriever in a retirement and adoption ceremony at the military working dog school here.
After Rusk, 20, was killed Dec. 5 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province by Taliban sniper fire, Marine Corps officials told Darrell and Kathy Rusk, his parents, that Eli, the young Marine’s infantry explosives detector dog, crawled on top of their son to protect him after he was shot.
The Rusks drove here from their home in Orange Grove, Texas, along with their sons -- Cody, 22, and Brady, 12 -- as well as Rusk's aunt, Yvonne Rusk, and his grandparents, Jan Rusk and Katy and Wayne O'Neal.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jessy Eslick of the Defense Department’s military working dog research and development section handed the leash to the family, praising Eli as "a dog that brought Marines home to their families."
Eli immediately began licking Kathy Rusk's palms and fell into the arms of his former handler's father.
"In his last letter we got the day before we buried him, at the very top was a little smudge that said 'Eli's kisses,'" said the fallen Marine’s mother,[...] (read the rest here. And YES, it is a must read - all of it)
Remembering Pfc Colton Rusk:
THIS picture of the two heroes together is from msnbc:
SAN ANTONIO — When a sniper's bullet struck Pfc. Colton Rusk, the first to reach his body was his best friend Eli — a bomb-sniffing, black Labrador so loyal he snapped at other Marines who rushed to his fallen handler.
"Eli bit one of them," said Rusk's father, Darrell, recalling the story told to him by other Marines....
But Eli's working days are over.
"You're going home and relaxing," said Kathy Rusk, leaning in close to Eli and rubbing his snout. "You're going home."
Go read the whole column here.
I totally believe that Eli's best friend - Colton Rusk - will be watching and smiling as Eli continues to serve as some small measure of comfort to his family every day for the rest of his life.