U.S. Marine Craig Grossi was deployed to Afghanistan, immersed in one of the most dangerous places on the planet. But amidst the chaos of bullets and fire, something happened that he never expected.
In the throes of the war in Afghanistan, in the most turbulent of circumstances, he saved an unexpected and unusual friend. As he would soon find out, this would become a companion he could rely on, and who would one day return the favor when he needed it most.
Virginia resident Craig Grossi enlisted in the military, and endured the grueling training in order to become a U.S. Marine. In summer 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan. As part of the 2010 troop mission, Craig was sent deep into the heart of the action. However dangerous it was, he knew he was there to protect the Coalition positions. There he was so far from home, not knowing that a kind soul waiting to be saved, would one day would end up saving him in return.
A Perilous Tour
From the minute they arrived, they were thrown into war. Their mission took them to the south of the country, considered a very dangerous area, and no one knew what would happen. Attached to a group of Reconnaissance Marines, Craig was to collect intelligence whilst protecting his position. In this unpredictable region, he knew what he had signed up for, however, the U.S. Marine had no idea just how dangerous it would get, and what was in store.
Belly Of The Beast
This war-torn country saw a lot of suffering, especially the Sangin District of Helmand Province, which was for civilian and soldier, not somewhere you wanted to stay for long. The British Royal Marines were being pulled out of their positions, and the U.S. Marine units took over.
The Heat Of Battle
Only a week in, Craig’s nerves began to take their toll from shell shock. What was even worse, was that the temperature in the Registan Desert was reaching new heights of 115 degrees. The soldiers just could not catch a break. However, in the middle of the chaos, Craig found a moment of solitude, and it was then that he noticed something out of the ordinary.
A Sudden Quiet
In a rare quiet moment, Craig decided to clean and check his rifle before he sat down to make a snack. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a small stray dog that was hovering from around the corner. He found himself intrigued as there was something unusual about this dog. He felt compelled to investigate.
A Most Peculiar Visitor
This dog was different to the other feral animals he was used to seeing in the Afghan desert. He wasn’t vicious or mangled, and something inside him made him want to get closer to the sweet creature. Craig decided he would take a chance with the stray. This wasn’t exactly following protocol, but he went along with it anyway, and it would make the outcome even more meaningful.
Wild And Hungry
Up until meeting this unusual dog, The U.S. Marine company had been warned and given instructions to keep their distance from the stray dogs they come across. Most of the strays were vicious and hungry, hunting in packs. Therefore, because this dog was totally different, he went up to it and offered him a piece of beef jerky, not knowing what to expect.
Pleased To Meet You
The dog’s fur was not a sight for sore eyes. It was sad to see it matted, and cemented with mud, and bugs deeply embedded in his fur. Then Craig heard something. The dog’s tail was wagging frantically, and it was in that moment, that Craig could see how desperately this dog wanted some love and kindness. What happened next, he never expected, and it caught him off guard.
Against All Odds
The stray dog then did something that took Craig by surprise. This poor animal was clearly starving, however, when Craig offered his beef jerky, it didn’t snatch the snack out of the U.S. Marine’s hand. Not at all, in fact, he accepted it from him in a way that Craig would never forget. This sweet animal was notably gentle. He chewed the beef jerky carefully and slowly. This moment took him aback that he almost forgot about his mission, but as he returned to his gear, he felt a poke. He turned around.
‘Looks Like A Fred’
The stray dog had followed Craig, looking up at him with innocent sweet eyes, and a gaze as if to say ‘please be my friend’. A fellow Marine noticed this interaction and called out, “Looks like you made a friend!” From that moment, he named him Fred and a beautiful friendship began. This would change the course of both of their futures.
Of all places to find a true companion, it was in the middle of a warzone in Afghanistan. Craig and his fellow Marine helped to take care of Fred and together, they removed the bugs from his fur. From that moment, wherever Craig went, Fred wouldn’t be far behind. Soon he would discover just how crucial that first meeting was.
When Craig was on duty, in charge of patrolling the area, or even sleeping, his new friend made sure he was by his side with him. For both of them danger was all around, but this made them feel safe. Fred became beacon of light for the whole troop, he gave them light and hope in the darkness. However, two of them were about to face a huge dilemma.
How To Say Goodbye
When Craig’s tour of duty was nearly at its end, he knew he didn’t want to say goodbye to Fred forever, he owed him so much. The U.S. Marine had to prepare himself for a very painful situation that he was close to being faced with: saying goodbye to his companion. He just couldn’t fathom this outcome, so instead he chose to do something risky that would end up impacting them both.
A New Mission
Craig devised a plan that he could smuggle Fred out, not just from Sangin but out of the country. Yet, this was a risky move, and being caught smuggling a stray dog was not just a violation of U.S. Marine protocol. Craig and his fellow soldiers had been warned that if they were found with a dog they had adopted, it would be euthanized. He had to think about this and decide whether it was worth the risk. But he couldn’t imagine life without him.
Craig didn’t want to go against U.S. Marine protocol, but how could he abandon Fred now? Craig needed Fred to make the decision for him . If the dog chose to follow Craig to the helicopter, then he knew the decision had been made. As the choppers landed at the base that morning he wouldn’t forget, through the dust storm, the Marines ran into their seats. and now the time had come for Craig to get on board the helicopter, but Fred was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, just as he was moments away from saying goodbye to his friend who had got him through his darkest times, Craig felt something. It was Fred! The dog seemed nervous but determined to be with his companion. And even though Fred was clearly scared, Craig knew that the answer had been written. To Craig’s surprise, his sergeant and comrades were also willing to assist in helping him smuggle the dog. The master sergeant then ran up to him with a duffel bag, and put Fred inside the bag, and jumped in the chopper. They lifted off for Camp Leatherneck, however, this task was far from easy and they were not in the all clear.
Obstacle After Obstacle
At the new camp, Craig then had to smuggle Fred over to the camp postal service. The manager of the postal service offered to hide the dog for Craig. He wanted to get the dog out of Afghanistan and to the US, but there would be many forms to fill out, and vaccinations to get, rescuing his furry friend was to be one of the most difficult and nerve-racking things he had ever tried to do. It required finding loopholes, with the intervention of an international team of volunteers, from Uganda, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Even with this success was not a guarantee and now there were so many people involved.
And so the time came for Craig to return to battle in Sangin. He was worried, but finally, Fred received clearance. His paperwork was given the A ok, and he was all set to be sent overseas. Fred was packed in a kennel and flown safely all the way to the other side of the world. Craig’s father and sister drove several hours up north from their home in DC suburbs. At New York’s JFK Airport, they welcomed Fred to his new home in America. They received the dog at customs and took care of him until Craig got back. But Craig was not the same he was before he left.
A Changed Man
Months later, after Fred had started to get used to his new life, Craig finally finished his mission in Afghanistan and was sent home. Craig had been through the unimaginable. Two of his colleagues from his unit had died in action, and he was carrying a huge emotional burden with him that was weighing heavy on him. He had saved the dog — and now the dog was about to repay him.
The Aftermath Of Combat
he was plagued by PTSD, but he didn’t want to talk to anyone about what he had experienced in Afghanistan, so his trauma was fresh and his wounds were still raw. He quit the Marines and started working in a government job in DC. In Craig’s spare time, he took Fred for walks and that helped to clear his mind and heal slowly. In his own way, Fred was about to demonstrate to his owner and friend exactly how he had rescued him.
Fred Meets Washington
Fred became an instant conversation starter, and ice breaker to strangers. Asking about the dog, helped Craig to get out of his head and have nice conversations with passers by. This helped open him up more to talk about his experience in Afghanistan and how he met Fred and brought him home. Craig was coming back to himself, and a new journey was about to begin.
The more Craig went out with Fred, the more it helped him release all the painful memories, and it became a form of therapy for the ex marine. Fred’s joy was infectious, not only to him but for everyone who encountered him. Craig realized that other people needed to hear his extraordinary tale too. Ordinary people somehow loved happy stories like his, so he knew what he had to do next.
Craig thought about that poignant moment that defined him: that first moments of pure happiness in their first meeting in such a lonely place. He called Fred’s character trait “Stubborn Positivity,” and saw that he needed to adopt it as his own personal philosophy. In those difficult moments in which everything seemed to be falling apart thinking about Fred’s example became a way for Craig to remember to react even to those moments positively and learn to control his thoughts. By choosing to see the good, it had a huge impact on the course of his future.
The Path Unfolds
Craig quit his government job and enrolled at DC’s Georgetown University, taking Fred with him. Fred had not just affected his thinking, but his whole life. At long last Craig actually felt back to normal and was thrilled to be in a classroom setting, and found he had a passion for writing. Behind it all, his emotional state improved drastically and he continued to heal and adjust. Fred had helped bring him his U.S. Marine buddy out of the grip of PTSD. It was obvious to Craig that if he had not taken a chance to save this dog from Afghanistan, he could have been in a far darker place with no light in sight. He now understood the new path of his life: to reach out and inspire others.
Fred Meets America
Over the next three years, Craig wrote his own memoirs, entitled: Craig and Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, And How They Rescued Each Other. He now travels across the country as a speaker, accompanied by his girlfriend Nora, their other dog Ruby, and of course, the star of the show, Fred himself. Craig’s mission is to help others see how stubborn positivity can affect their life choices and trajectory. He wants people to remember that when things seem most dark, there will always be a reason to find joy and continue onward. For this veteran of battle and PTSD survivor, that reason happened to be irresistibly fluffy with a persistently-wagging tail.