Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee was killed in March 2007 by a mortar in Falluja, Iraq. His partner, who suffered injuries in the attack and still has shrapnel in his body, had to be restrained and taken away from Lee's body. Lee's mother and father back home in Quitman, Miss., requested to adopt that steadfast friend, a big-eared, friendly dog named Lex. According to news reports, it was the first request to adopt the partner of a Marine dog handler. It took some effort to make it happen, because Lex was two years short of the standard retirement age of 10. Lex also had to be vetted to make sure he wasn't overly aggressive.
However, everything worked out, and Lex left his base in Albany, Ga., on Dec. 23 to meet his new family at a small-town celebration in Quitman that brought together townspeople, military officials, and Lee's family. Lee's father, Jerome, told a CNN reporter that he hoped Lex's presence would bring a small part of Dustin home to his two younger brothers. "There's always going to be that missing link with Dusty gone," he says. "But part of Dusty is here with Lex."