A homecoming like no other
By Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 18, 2013
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- While patrolling the streets of Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Thomas Burright never thought he would stumble across something that would change his deployment, and ultimately his life forever. That something came in the form of a tiny Afghan puppy he found scrounging for food in an alley near their outpost.
Embedded as a vehicle mechanic with a unit of Army Green Berets, the 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airman quickly fell in love with the pup and brought her back to their camp.
"We would see homeless and starving dogs all the time while out on patrols, but she was the first puppy I had seen," Burright said. "I gave her a treat, saw how happy she was wagging her tail and instantly became attached."
Living in an austere and hostile environment, it can be difficult at times to remember the simple and innocent things life has to offer. However, according to Burright, an energetic Afghan Kuchi they named Lyla, made all the difference to these deployed servicemembers.
"It was funny to see even the toughest guys would melt when they held her," he said. "She was our little mascot, our stress reliever."
For months Lyla was cared for by Burright, and the two became almost inseparable.
"She lived in my room with me, slept in my bed and I brought her food from the chow hall. She did everything I did," he said.
During his deployment, Burright learned that bringing Lyla back to the U.S. would cost nearly $4,000, an obstacle that seemed almost impossible to overcome.
"I didn't think it would happen at first," he said. "I knew it was going to take some dedication and effort to bring her home, so I started a fundraiser website and raised almost $500. That's when I received a message from someone telling me about an organization called The Puppy Rescue Mission."
The Puppy Rescue Mission is an organization dedicated to reuniting servicemembers with their overseas companions and over the last two years has rescued more than 400 dogs from multiple war zones.
"I contacted the organization and sent them a video I made of Lyla during my deployment," Burright said. "I went to bed around 11 p.m. that night and awoke with an email from them saying to pack Lyla's bags, she was going home. I was in complete shock; it was truly unimaginable that it all happened so quickly."
Because Lyla would be traveling from Afghanistan to the U.S., she had to be taken to a detention center for one month where she received the necessary shots and treatment needed prior to entering the U.S.
"I tried to time it just perfectly so she would get home right around the same time I would," he said.
Burright indeed seemed to have the timing down perfect as Lyla arrived at Dallas Fort Worth Airport only a few days after he returned from Afghanistan. After arriving at the airport, Burright was able to introduce the Afghan pup that captured his heart to his wife, Miriah, and his 3-year-old son, Thomas, for the first time in person.
"Now that we're home, she just follows my son around the house all day and sleeps with him during the night. She's just very happy to be here," Burright said.
Burright went on to note that he has plenty of friends who wish to bring dogs back with them, too, and he's left a few extra collars and dog toys there to help them do just that.