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Soldiers reunited with four-legged friends


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Trading in sand for grass, they now have a stamp in their passports and a new home in America.

Rio, Beethoven, Gus, Liberty and Charlie were among the 14 stray dogs from Afghanistan anxiously waiting, with wagging tails, to be reunited with their now official owners — U.S. soldiers who befriended and “adopted” the pooches while serving halfway around the world.

On Wednesday, November 16, the tarmac of JFK Airport saw a heartwarming event, as soldiers and pups embraced with hugs, kisses and slobbery licks.

The project, “Operation American Reunite,” was led by a group called Nowzad Dogs — the first and only dog rescue organization serving stray animals in Afghanistan. With the help of American Airlines, American Dog Rescue, and Cathy Kangas, CEO of PRAI Beauty, the four-legged friends were first transported by a freight operation from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Dubai, and then to London.

From there, American Airlines Cargo flew them to JFK, where more than a dozen soldiers — who were also flown in from their respective hometowns across the country — anticipated taking home their furry companions.

Each dog was taken to a veterinarian prior to the reunion.

The troop members had taken in the pups while serving in Afghanistan, but had to leave them behind when their deployments ended. According to reports, the soldiers said the canines were unwavering companions who helped ease the stresses of war and homesickness.