by Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
4/17/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- 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 an Army Special Forces unit, 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
Living in an austere and hostile location, it can be difficult at times
to remember the simple and innocent things life has to offer. However,
Burright said an energetic Afghan Kuchi they named Lyla, made all the
difference to these deployed service members.
"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."
Burright cared for Lyla for months 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
"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
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 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.