Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stories Series Episode #3: A Dog Named Lewis

Brandon Turnbull
10, April 2014

We are honored to share the story of Brandon Turnbull and Rex, a military dog he came in contact with during his deployment, Brandon's difficulties readjusting after returning home, and how a dog named Lewis is the reason he's alive today. Thank you, Brandon, for sharing your story with us. 

We only had Rex with us for one mission, we were pulling QRF (quick relief force) in the Balad Ruiz area just north of Baqubah in the Diyala providence during the elections. Our tour was from 2009-2010 with Attack Company 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment 3rd Stryker Brigade 2nd ID, the Army's first Stryker Brigade. 

I honestly don't have some amazing story where Rex physically saved my life, but I can tell you because of his handler and that dog, they were inevitably the reason I got my own dog upon returning home from Iraq. 

We lost two of our stellar soldiers from our company one night in early September and that memory hurt me for a long time. I was home for almost 9 months, and lost everything because lack of able to pay bills. I got into alcohol and became addicted to prescribed drugs like Xanax to cope with the emotional pain, it was mind numbing. I finally started to lose a grip on reality and contemplated suicide multiple times. It almost became a daily thought. 

That's when a good close friend of mine went and picked my dog Lewis up for me for my 25th birthday (he's adopted but don't tell him). He's honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. He's not just my best friend but he's my son. He kept me fighting, he never gave up on me, I never let him down, he always supports me no matter what I'm going through in life, he always has my back and he will always love me. 

My dog is the reason I'm alive today. He not a registered service dog but he's the answer to my PTSD and everyone sees that, he goes everywhere with me and never leaves my side. So I guess really the impact that Rex left me ended up saving my life in the long run. They say everything happens for a reason, I'm just glad I got to meet Rex because it resulted in me finding my soulmate and my best friend and if I didn't have that I don't know where I'd be, if even alive today.

I joined in 2007 as a 19 Kilo tanker. I was the platoon guide through our basic training/AIT at Fort Knox. After basic I got sent to the army’s first Stryker brigade under Attack company 5th Battalion 20th Infantry regiment 2nd Infantry Division. I was a team leader from the time I was a PFC. I received a DUI in Washington State for a .09 in a .08 legal state limit, about a month before our deployment. I plead guilty to deploy with my soldiers and delay my sentence until I returned.

September 2009 came around we’re a couple months into our deployment. We were on QRF (quick reaction force) on FOB Warhorse in Iraq when we get mortared. I was the senior gunner in our LT’s vehicle. We roll outside the wire, and we lost communications in the palm groves so they called out our secondary QRF. One of their vehicles drove off the side of a blown up bridge and KIA two of our soldiers. Some had to pull security while others had to rescue the other soldiers from the vehicle. 

I remember hearing their call signs over the radio and how silent everything instantly was. Even down on the ground it seemed like the world paused while we were already mourning inside. I couldn't even bring myself to so see them honorably sent off the base in black hawk home to their families. I sat in my room and cried night after night for months, which eventually turned to years. 

Upon returning home from Iraq as Sgt Turnbull I was generally discharged for my DUI from prior to my deployment. I returned home in April 2011 a broken changed man and severely depressed. I instantly went on a 4 month drinking binge where I drank every single day and popped a 1000 MG Vicodin or a 2 MG Xanax for up to nine months. Eventually I lost all will and motivation to live because I was so depressed. I always blamed myself and wished it was me instead of them. It even got to the point where I would dry fire my glock .45 against my temple just to see what it would feel like to be free of the world. 

That’s when a friend of mine got me my dog Lewis, a puppy mill rescue. He completely changed my life. Since Lewis, I have stopped drinking and consuming drugs. I got offered a job in Columbus, Georgia to be a laborer for a road construction company out of Detroit to do work on Fort Benning. I ended up returning back to Detroit and became apart of the Michigan Laborers union. I’ve spent over 2 years here with Lewis putting in new runways at the Metro Airport. Detroit is a beautiful and amazing city. Lewis has been here with me every step of the way. 

He’s been like a son to me or a companion, he’s never left my side, and as single male I’m happy living out here with Lewis knowing we are making it together surviving and no matter what we’ve been through nothing can stop us from accomplishing goals in life. He saved my life. I realized my dog had a soul and as awkward as it sounds it matches mine, it’s like we were meant to be together. Everything happens for a reason and people can change, life is beautiful.

This is my story, I hope its ok.

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