FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 9, 2012
SCHUMER SEEKS TO REUNITE WOUNDED HUDSON VALLEY IRAQ WAR VET WITH HER HEROIC MILITARY WORKING DOG – URGES AIR FORCE TO END DELAYS AND REUNITE PAIR THAT WORKED TOGETHER TO UNCOVER ROADSIDE BOMBS AND KEEP OUR SOLDIERS SAFE
Marine Corporal Megan Leavey from Valley Cottage Is Seeking To Adopt “Sergeant Rex,” the German Shepherd With Whom Marine Corporal Leavey Searched And Disarmed IEDs In Iraq To Keep Soldiers Out Of Harm’s Way
Adoption Process Is Hung Up In Air Force Red Tape – In Personal Letter, Schumer Urges Air Force To End Delays And Quickly Reunite Disabled Military Working Dog With His Handler
Schumer: Cut Red Tape And Reunite Sgt. Rex with His Long-Time Handler, Corporal Megan Leavey
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer personally urged Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to end the bureaucratic delays that are keeping a Hudson Valley Iraq War Veteran from being reunited with the Military Working Dog (MWD) she served with during the Iraq War. Marine Corporal Megan Leavey of Valley Cottage in Rockland County worked with a german shepherd, affectionately known as Sergeant Rex, hunting down and disarming improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq in order to keep other soldiers safe. After Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex were severely injured in the war, she asked the Air Force for permission to adopt the dog, but since Rex recovered and was still able to work, her request was not approved.
But now that he is elderly and no longer able to serve, Marine Corporal Leavey has renewed her request to adopt Rex. The Air Force must complete its portion of the application, officially classify Rex as excess, and review the application before it can be approved. But while Rex can no longer serve, a fact that has been known for several months, his adoption remains stuck in the Air Force bureaucracy. Schumer today asked the Secretary to expedite the necessary assessments required for MWD adoption so that an Iraq War hero can be reunited with her service dog as quickly as possible.
“Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex are true American heroes who saved countless American lives uncovering roadside bombs and booby traps in Iraq. Corporal Leavey has generously agreed to take care of Rex now that his days of service are over and the Air Force need to cut through the red tape that is holding up this adoption so these two can be reunited ASAP,” said Schumer. “They deserve to be reunited after risking their lives to make sure our troops stayed as safe as possible when traveling roads littered with IEDs. I’m strongly urging the Air Force to do the right thing, cross the T’s and dot the I’s so that Rex gets the home he deserves, and Corporal Leavey can be reunited with her faithful companion.”
During their two deployments to Iraq, Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex worked together to save countless lives as they scoured the war’s most dangerous regions, uncovering deadly explosives, IEDs, weapons caches and suicide bombers. Both were severely injured in 2006 when insurgents detonated an IED at the side of the road they were patrolling. Marine Corporal Leavey was awarded the Purple Heart and a Combat Valor Medal, and the pair spent the next year recovering together from their injuries. She retired from the Marine Corps in 2007, while Rex continued working with other members of the military. Now that Rex has reached 10 years of age, he is unable to work and will soon be classified as “excess”, which is the first step towards eventual adoption into a permanent home, which Marine Corporal Leavey has offered to provide.
The Air Force has requested a completed application from Corporal Leavey before any adoption can be considered. But, while Marine Corporal Leavey has completed what she is able of the application, there are several areas that require action by the Air Force for an application to be considered complete. Schumer is asking the Air Force to complete the paperwork and approve the adoption as soon as possible so that the two can be reunited.Schumer pointed out that Marine Corporal Leavey is an experienced dog handler and perfectly equipped to adopt Rex, especially since she’s experienced with this dog in particular, and currently works handling dogs for a private security firm. “Sergeant” Rex got this name because it is traditional for a handler to nickname his/her MWD using a rank one level above his/her own. Rex is a “Sergeant” (E-5) because this is one rank above his handlers, who were Marine Corporals (E-4). The Military Working Dog program is an essential, but unsung, tool in our military, and the dogs save countless lives each year.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Air Force Secretary Donley appears below:
The Honorable Michael B. Donley
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670
Dear Secretary Donley,
I write today on behalf of my constituent and a true American hero, Marine Corporal Megan Leavey, a decorated Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Marine Corporal Leavey served as a handler for Military Working Dogs (MWDs) during her two deployments in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. I recently learned of Marine Corporal Leavey’s interest in adopting MWD Rex E168 (nicknamed “Sergeant Rex”), the German Shepherd with whom she served during both deployments and with whom she was severely injured in an IED blast. Marine Corporal Leavey had hoped to adopt Rex in 2007 when she was discharged from the military, but because Rex made a full recovery and was still able to work, her request was not considered at the time. Now, at age 10 and in declining health, Rex is no longer able to serve, and Marine Corporal Leavey has once again applied to adopt him. I know you share my commitment to quickly meeting the needs of our Nation’s brave veterans, and it is in this spirit that I respectfully request your cooperation in expeditiously reviewing this case to grant Marine Corporal Leavey her wish to be reunited with Rex.
During their two deployments to Iraq, Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex worked together to save countless lives as they scoured the war’s most dangerous regions, uncovering deadly explosives, IEDs, weapons caches and suicide bombers. Both were severely injured in 2006 when insurgents detonated an IED at the side of the road they were patrolling. Marine Corporal Leavey was awarded the Purple Heart and a combat valor medal, and the pair spent the next year recovering together from their injuries.
Marine Corporal Leavey retired in 2007, while Rex continued working. Now that Rex can no longer work, Marine Corporal Leavey’s wish is to adopt him. In her letter to me, Marine Corporal Leavey explains:
As you can imagine, I have been through a lot with this dog. He was my partner and he has saved my life and the lives of other Marines we worked with in Iraq by detecting pressure plates so we would not step on them, finding excess amounts of ammunition and contraband that would have been used against us if not found, etc. I have such a strong bond to this dog, especially going through the trauma of being blown up and injured together, I would give anything to be reunited with him, and to be given the opportunity to be the one to take care of him for the last few years he has left, as he has always taken care of me.
Marine Corporal Leavey’s qualifications for the adoption of Rex not only include the fact that she has already had considerable experience handling this particular dog, but also that she is an experienced professional dog handler.
Until recently, Rex was the oldest working dog at Camp Pendleton and he was the subject of a book published in December 2011 entitled Sergeant Rex by Mike Dowling. Mr. Dowling was Rex’s handler during his first (of three) deployment, before Rex was paired with Marine Corporal Leavey, and he has endorsed Marine Corporal Leavey’s swift adoption of Rex.
My understanding is that the Air Force has requested a completed application from Marine Corporal Leavey before any adoption can be considered. But, while Marine Corporal Leavey has completed what she is able of the application, there are several areas that require action by the Air Force for an application to be considered complete. I respectfully request that everything be done to expedite the adoption of Rex.
For your review I have attached the related correspondence. I know I can count on your cooperation in expeditiously reviewing this case and advising me of your findings as quickly as possible. If you have any questions, you may call Caroline Wekselbaum in my NYC Office at 212-486-4430. Thank you for your assistance in this matter, and for your support of our Nation’s Veterans.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate