Military dog mourns loss of handler, helps veterans heal

Published: Sep. 6, 2013 at 9:48 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2013 at 10:37 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Sgt. Yeager is a seven-year veteran. He's served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and been awarded the purple heart. He's also a black lab, whose work has probably saved hundreds of lives.

Now, thousands of miles from the battlefield, he's part of a new mission to help other veterans heal.

Looking at Sgt. Yeager, you'd never know the pain he's been through. His handler was killed during a road side bomb sweep while deployed in Afghanistan last April. Sgt. Yeager was injured by shrapnel on his nose, ear, and chest but has since recovered.

However, some signs of sorrow remain. At the memorial service last year, Yeager stayed by the cross of his handler.

Click here for more PHOTOS of the service:

"The companionship you have is pretty neat, because they go out and risk their lives to keep us alive," said Sgt. Tupper.

Sgt. Yeager has since retired. Now he's Sgt. Tupper's companion and has been for the past year. He goes everywhere with the 30-year-old who's been recovering since June when he was injured in combat.

Sgt. Tupper says the 7-year-old Purple Heart recipient has also helped him through his recovery process.

"He helps me through the doors if it's a tight squeeze," Sgt. Tupper noted. "He'll get on my lap if we're going down a hill and kind of make sure I'm not going too fast. He gets worried. Recently, kayaking - when I'm doing flips - he gets real nervous and tries to get in the water to come to me."

Having such a loyal partner helps lift his spirits and aid in his recovery process - two injured veterans who benefit from each other's company.

"It's cool to give him the recognition and his handler and his handler's family recognition because day to day they struggle losing their dad or husband."

Sgt. Tupper hopes to be out of the hospital by late fall. Sgt. Yeager will be there for him the entire time, and go with him when he leaves.

Sgt. Tupper says Yeager also has two combat ribbons and has found over 100 IED's. Yeager gets his name from Chuck Yeager - a retired air force general who broke the sound barrier.

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