KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Military retirement for one Marine consists of chasing squeaky tennis balls, watching sports on a big screen TV from the couch, and occasionally chomping down on a favorite snack: hot dogs.
“He loves playing with my 4-year old,” said Chad Wood describing his retired Marine war dog Sergeant Rush. The 12-year old lab has a playful tail wag like most retrievers but the combat veteran possesses a highly specialized talent.
“We were a great pair. We did great together,” said the Marine veteran who was the last handler to work with a bomb detection dog that served five tours overseas.
“He saved my life and many others…He found too many IED’s to count,” recalled Wood who served in Afghanistan with Sgt. Rush. One of their many close calls unfolded when the military vehicle they were riding in rolled over a bomb buried in the road.
“It just exploded. It happened so fast that you have no idea, but we were very lucky,” said Wood recalling a rush of concern for his partner. “I’m alive, Rush is alive, everybody here is okay. Luckily, we were able to get out of there before a counter attack happened,” said Wood, who was a corporal and served five years in the Marines.
The most rewarding moment came after “dog school” and his pairing with Sgt. Rush, who was motivated on the battlefield by finding bombs so he could play with his beloved tennis ball.
Most of the time the pair spent their days out front on patrol. Dogs often represent the tip of the combat spear, and their fellow troops look forward to any patrol that includes a dog -- especially Sgt. Rush.
“They loved him. He was their favorite. Every time we would got out, they’re like, 'Yes, we got Rush,' because he is the best,” said Wood.
If you'd like to meet Sgt. Rush, the canine will be taking part in the War Dog Memorial March at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville on Nov. 3 from 2-4:30 p.m.
People are invited to bring the family and their dogs out to the college's walking loop that surrounds the campus lake to learn about some of the famous war dogs and the college's plans to honor them.
Admission is $20 for one dog, or $15 for multiple dogs owned by one person. People without dogs are welcome to attend for free.
The dog registration fee includes an event bandanna. Matching t-shirts will be available for an additional cost.
You can learn more at the Veterans Heritage Site Foundation.