Veteran to be reunited with rescued pup stuck at JFK due to paperwork glitch
By DAVE GOLDINER | New York Daily News | Published: September 3, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Harley’s gonna be heading home!
An American combat veteran was celebrating victory Thursday as the feds agreed to allow the beloved dog he adopted on the battlefield to stay in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control scrapped a deportation order for the 1-year-old pooch — setting up a heartfelt forthcoming reunion with Staff Sgt. Amjad Kirrish at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“We are eternally humbled and grateful,” Kirrish said. “We are counting down the days to be reunited with our little girl, Harley.”
The veteran from southern California paid tribute to Paws of War, the Long Island nonprofit that helped him bring Harley from the Middle East, and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.). who got a bipartisan group of lawmakers to plead for a reprieve.
“Words cannot describe the appreciation that my wife and I have for all the hard work and support from every single person involved,” Kirrish said.
“It’s so humbling to see all the support and to know how many people care,” he added.
The head of the animal-loving charity that helped the airman called the decision a victory for its mission to use animals to help veterans recover from the stress of battlefield trauma.
“People may say it’s just one dog and one (service member). But it can really change so much,” said Robert Misseri, the co-founder and president of Paws of War, who urged overseas veterans who need help with a support animal to contact the group.
It will still be about a month before Kirrish and his wife can reunite with Harley, who has to undergo a 28-day quarantine after undergoing vaccinations Thursday.
It’s a happy ending to a man-and-his-dog drama that started months ago on the harsh battle zone of an undisclosed nation. The staff sergeant and members of his unit were on patrol when they first spotted Harley as the only surviving puppy from her litter and quickly won the heart of Kirrish’s entire Air National Guard unit.
She was always looking to play with anyone, and kept morale high even in the face of battlefield horrors.
When it came time to head home, Kirrish knew he could not leave the pooch behind.
Paws of War won permission to bring Harley to the U.S. to be reunited with the veteran, who doubled as a firefighter on the front lines of California’s disastrous wildfires.
Harley finally arrived at JFK on a repatriation flight last week, but officials rejected her entry application due to a paperwork mistake.
The Centers for Disease Control relented after the intervention of Rice and the rest of the Long Island congressional delegation. Now the doggie drama is over, Kirrish is counting down the hours to a K-9 reunion for the ages.