Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Megan Leavey, who served two tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a K-9 handler.
Megan Leavey was born in October 1983 in Valley Cottage, Rockland County, New York. She graduated from Nyack High School in 2001. Leavey then attended the State University of New Yorkat Cortland.
After about a year, Leavey left college, moved back home and got a job. Affected by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, she joined the Marines in 2003. After basic training, she went to Camp Pendleton in California, where she joined the K-9 unit and partnered with Sergeant Rex, a tough, aggressive German shepherd.
In May 2005, Leavey and Rex deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. Their job was to walk in front of a patrol or convoy with Rex sniffing out hidden explosives. After six months, they returned to Camp Pendleton. In May 2006, Leavey and Rex deployed again to Iraq, this time to Ramadi. On Sept. 4, 2006, they were on assignment sweeping an area for an Army unit. Insurgents set off an improvised explosive device.
Leavey and Rex survived, but both suffered serious injuries. They returned to Camp Pendleton, where they underwent intensive physical therapy for a year. During this time, Leavey prepared new K-9 handlers for deployment. In December 2007, Leavey discharged as a corporal. Leavey and Rex conducted more than 100 missions.
When Leavey returned home, she used her K-9 handling expertise and worked for a security firm with her new partner, Patriot. Four years after Leavey and Rex separated, Leavey learned that Rex had facial palsy and retired. Rex was not adoptable due to his aggressive nature. But Leavey was determined to adopt him, so she reached out to the Rockland County Veterans Service Agency in New York. More than 22,000 people signed a petition for the adoption.
In April 2012, Leavey and Rex reunited. They lived together for eight months before Rex died in December 2012 at the age of 11. There have been several tributes to Leavey and Rex, including a statue in their honor at Haverstraw Bay Park in Rockland County and a dog park dedicated to them in Congers, New York. In 2017, the movie “Megan Leavey” was made about their story.
Leavey received a Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a “V” device. She now has a career as a veterinary technician in New Jersey.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.