laia Major Steven Hutchison, a Viet Nam vet, wanted to sign back up for duty after the 911 attacks but his wife persuaded him not to. After her death from breast cancer, Hutchison returned to active duty as part of a group of older seasoned soldiers that helped to train.

‘He’d been a soldier all his life, and that’s what he wanted to do,’ said his brother, Richard.

‘He hadn’t been drafted and he didn’t have to go, and he chose that he felt he could serve and make a difference,’ said US Army spokesman Lt Colonel Nathan Banks.

hutchisonAfter a year tour of Afghanistan, Hutchinson’s life was taken on Mother’s Day when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Basra. At 60, he is the oldest casualty of the Iraq war. But like many US soldiers, this veteran and hero wasn’t alone. About 6 week previously he informally adopted a puppy and like many other soldiers, he did everything he could to keep his puppy, Laia, name after Princess Laia from Star Wars, safe and with him, including defying the military order of no pets.

Hutchison’s unit found Laia at just 1 month old in Basra. The local vet said he would have to euthanize the dog unless they adopted her as a mascot. As policy, soldiers are not supposed to adopt strays, and Hutchison defied orders to get rid of the dog, even moving her from base to base, his friend, Sgt. Andrew Hunt, told the SPCA. “He ignored this request several times up until it began to move toward punishment,” Sgt. Hunt said. “See, you couldn’t ever tell the Major he couldn’t do something, he [was] a stubborn old goat set in his ways. It was an endearing quality we loved about him.”

“Whenever Laia was around, his demeanor and personality changed 1000 percent,” Hunt told the SPCA. “He was never without a smile, he was so much happier in life, it was amazing.” (MSNBC)

The story of the illegal adoption is still one of the fondest stories told by his unit.

“In their telling, Hutchison signed a memo authorizing the dog as a member of the unit, which trains Iraqi border security officials. But even when that got him in trouble with his bosses, Hutchison didn’t give up.”

After his death, working with SPCA International, Operation Baghdad Pups, Laia has come to the US and been united with the family of Major Hutchinson.

A reunion occurred at Dulles International as SPCA International Program Director, Terri Crisp, walked through customs doors with Laia in her arms.

“I wanted to be here because she’s a part of Steve. It’s a part of my brother,” Richard Hutchison said.

Laia will eventually be placed in Michigan where a friend of Major Hutchison will care for her and surely give her life fit for a princess.

Sincerest condolences to the family of Major Hutchinson.  From everything I’ve read, he gave his life doing what was so impotant to him, he was another of America’s true heroes.  Special thanks once again to Operation Baghdad Pups for bringing yet another furry companion home.

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There are still many more companion animals waiting to come home to the US and Get the Flash Player to see this content.