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Soldier rescues stray Iraq pup

By Owen Boss and Brian Dowling | Boston Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 6, 2016

Chris Smith had a few choice words for the Islamic State fighters he has battled for the past six months after he returned home last night from his wild adventure on the front lines in Iraq — the barbaric group is a “sinking ship.”

“They are not going to be around long. The biggest threat I think is more here and in Europe with the migration crisis. Now they are splintering out everywhere,” he said.

As for being held in customs for about four hours at Logan International Airport, he would only say, “I am cleared now. I am good now.”

His lone campaign was over as he was given his dog, named Dushka, by a nonprofit group that helped bring the pup home.

“It’s the name of a machine gun. We had one. I think its German-made, 50 caliber,” Smith explained.

For the last six months, the 25-year-old has fought Islamic State terrorists in an effort to protect the Iraqi citizens who have been subjected to the group’s horrific war crimes, including mass executions, beheadings, crucifixions and enslavement.

“It just really bothered him, he felt like these folks weren’t getting a lot of help,” his mother, Cindy Smith, told the Herald. “His entire family tried to talk him out of it, but he just thought he could help.”

Smith, his mother said, spent six years in the Marines, ultimately serving at Fort Devens. He enlisted in boot camp immediately after high school and recently enrolled in Norwich University. He currently lives in Vermont, where he installs flooring and works as a brick mason, Cindy Smith said.

“He’s an extremely moral person, sometimes too moral,” she said. “We are very proud of him — but we would have rather had him home.”

When her son told her he was returning, Cindy Smith said he had an unusual request — that a stray puppy he befriended and cared for while fighting on the front lines come home with him.

Smith’s beloved 6-month-old female shepherd mix, which he found while searching abandoned buildings the very first day he arrived at his camp in Kirkuk, is now at his side again.

Smith and Dushka — who comforted each other during long, dangerous nights in the warzone — were reunited when he landed at Logan Airport this week, thanks to Operation Baghdad Pups. The organization helps American soldiers keep the animals they befriend while serving overseas.

Smith said Dushka “always followed me around. I’ve been missing her. She’s a good friend, sticks around.”

When asked what’s next, he said, “sleep, beer,” seeing his family and then heading back to Vermont.

As for his time in Iraq as a freelance soldier fighting alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga — a murky undertaking that the U.S. government appears to be taking a hands-off policy toward — Smith wouldn’t reveal much.

“I spent four months in northern Iraq,” he added. “I’d rather not talk too much about why.”

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©2016 the Boston Herald

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Photos of Chris Smith with Dushka, a dog he found in Iraq during his deployment there.
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