Story by Cpl. Jeff Drew

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PAYNE, Helmand province, Afghanistan Ā– He defends Marines and sailors with love and tenacity, protecting them as any Marine would protect a brother-in-arms. He is the epitome of manĀ’s best friend, shielding service members from the enemy while providing companionship and camaraderie. His name is Willy Pete, and heĀ’s a warrior, a protector, a friend. HeĀ’s also a dog.

Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), arrived in the Khan Neshin District in the summer of 2009 for a seven-month deployment and established a coalition presence in the Southwest part of Afghanistan. The LAR Marines pushed west to gain a firm position in a town called QalĀ’ah-ye Now, where they found two dogs in a compound they began using as a patrol base. The dogs were beaten and malnourished. One of them was pregnant and the Marines named her Sandy; the other dog was small and frail, and the Marines fittingly named him Scraggles. The company adopted the two dogs, who accepted the Marines as family. Sandy soon had her litter of puppies, one of which would be named Willy Pete. All the puppies went to local residents to protect their farms and herd livestock, but Willy had a different opportunity Ā– he went to the Marines of Company D for companionship.

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