After days of heavy fighting, the dust was finally settling on the infamous Helmand Province. For the first time, then, one Marine was able to survey the full scale of the situation he’d landed in. But as his eyes darted across the barren landscape, something caught his eye: a little dog wandering around in a war zone.
Craig Grossi had originally arrived in Sangin District, Afghanistan, in 2010, and he knew at the time that he was facing the toughest challenge of his career. Indeed, even though he was an elite Marine and so knew how to push his limits, nothing could have prepared him for his time in the war-torn country.
The soldier arrived in the war zone under the cover of darkness. However, that protection didn’t last for long. On Grossi’s very first morning in Sangin, the Taliban attacked his unit.
Suddenly, all Grossi could think about was staying alive. “It was a different kind [of fighting] than we’d ever seen,” he told The Dodo in December 2016. “It was pretty fierce for a couple of days, and I was so preoccupied defending myself.”
But when the fighting eventually calmed down, Grossi was finally able to stretch his legs. “We were in a region no [Americans] had been in years,” he explained. Naturally, then, Grossi took stock of his surroundings.
That’s when the Marine noticed a little dog wandering on its own. Although stray dogs were common in the area, they usually roamed in packs. In addition, they tended to avoid people and responded fiercely if approached.
So Grossi was struck by the little dog’s self-confidence and demeanor as it walked through the compound. What’s more, the dog even had his own food stash and shelter beneath some bushes nearby. It seemed that the pooch marched to the beat of his own drum – and Grossi liked that.
“I came across him in this little compound we were held up in and he had a little pile of food,” the Marine recalled in a December 2016 vlog. “I decided he was just too cool-looking not to go over and try to hang out with him. Something in me just told me to go over and approach this little dog.”
However, this was against the rules, and Grossi knew that; for several reasons, soldiers were forbidden to approach or feed the local dogs. However, after watching the animal for some time, Grossi decided he would make an exception for this little mutt.
Armed with beef jerky, Grossi decided to try and make friends with the cute canine and approached the animal with caution. And while it soon became clear that the dog was in a bad way – filthy and covered in critters – Grossi continued to make his way toward the stray anyway.
“As soon as I got close to him he started wagging his tail,” Grossi explained in his vlog. “Right there, I was just blown away. He was hot, hungry, covered in bugs and had absolutely no reason to show me and kind of trust or love, but he did it right away.”
Bowled over by his cheerfulness, Grossi rewarded the little dog with a quick ear scratch before deciding that he’d better get back to his unit. But as he did so, the hound got up to follow. “From that moment on, he followed me wherever I went,” Grossi revealed. The Marine decided to name the dog Fred.
And what happened next was simply amazing. It goes without saying that Grossi was in Afghanistan to do a job, and part of that job was to visit civilian families at night and make sure Taliban fighters weren’t holding them hostage in their homes.
But when Grossi went to fulfill his duties, Fred followed. Of course, Grossi and the rest of his team were terrified that the dog would bark or otherwise make a noise that would give away their position. But he never did: it was like Fred knew he had to be quiet.
And so, in time, Grossi and Fred developed an unbreakable bond. But when the unit finally had to leave the Sangin District, they had poor Fred follow them all the way to the helicopter. That’s when Grossi and his unit risked disciplinary procedures and smuggled their canine companion on board in a duffel bag.
But it seemed that fate would lend them a hand upon landing, as Grossi noticed a shipping company had set up an office nearby the military base. He enquired about sending Fred to the United States – and although they probably shouldn’t have, the guys at the shipping company decided to help.
However, before Grossi could finalize the paperwork, he was called back into the field. The shipping workers, though, promised to look after Fred while he was gone. And after that, things took a dramatic turn: a rocket struck Grossi’s location, and the Marine suffered a head injury.
In the hospital, though, all Grossi could think about was Fred. So as soon as he was released, he rushed straight to his dedicated doggie and arranged for Fred’s passage to the United States. Charmingly, several people on the base chipped in to help – from the vet who checked Fred over before his trip, to the fellow Marine who found a travel crate for the canine.
When Fred arrived in New York City, then, Grossi’s family were there to meet him. They had driven from Virginia to retrieve the dog and would look after him for three months while Grossi finished his tour. After that, of course, the pair could finally be together again.
Today, Grossi and Fred are living happily ever after, traveling across the country sharing the amazing story of how they refused to be beaten in the toughest of circumstances. And not only did they survive their ordeal, but Grossi in particular went above and beyond the call of duty – in order to leave no man, or dog, behind.