A specialized search dog handler and his canine partner, both recovering from gunshot wounds during a battle in Afghanistan, returned home to Fort Leonard Wood Friday, greeted by their unit comrades of the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Sgt. Eric Goldenthal, 67th Engineer Detachment, Canine Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th MEB, and his specialized search dog, Corky, both walked off the aircraft on their own power.
The team, one on crutches and the other with a paw bandage, were flown home aboard a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft that landed at the post's Forney Air Field.
Both were shot seconds apart during an attack, Jan. 19, in the Afghanistan Kapisa province, as they were leading the way for Green Berets.
Goldenthal said he wasn't worried about his injury -- his mind was on one thing, his battle-buddy and best friend, Corky.
"I just kept asking if he would be alright. I was worried about his leg," said Goldenthal who also got hit in the leg.
Goldenthal and Corky have been teammates for more than a year. They left Fort Leonard Wood in September for an overseas assignment with Special Forces -- a mission Goldenthal volunteered for.
"I am back a little earlier than expected. It would have been nice to finish my mission down there. But, it's good to be back," Goldenthal said.
No one was more happy to see Goldenthal and Corky than fellow Soldier and longtime friend, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Collins, 67th Engineer Detachment kennel master. They went through Specialized Search Dog School together, and Collins said their Families often spend time together.
As soon as the door opened on the C-130, Collins dashed to the aircraft. He shook Goldenthal's hand and took the yellow Labrador Retriever's leash to escort his buddies toward the 4th MEB crowd awaiting them in the hanger.
"He is selfless service. He's a great Soldier," Collins said of Goldenthal. "He volunteered to come here and volunteered to take a very early deployment outside of school, even though he only had a year left in the military -- a Special Forces deployment at that. I am so excited to see them."
The contingent of greeters included the entire Canine Company and 4th MEB commanders. As Goldenthal and Corky made their way into the hanger, Lt. Col. Sebastien Joly, 5th Engineer Battalion commander, addressed the crowd.
"He is an absolute hero that stepped up, and I am glad you are home safe and sound. I hope you recover quickly and can rejoin the Canine Company. Thank you for your service," Joly said.
Goldenthal said he and Corky, were just doing their jobs the day his team was attacked.
The duo made the Special Search Dog community proud that day.
According to Collins, no one died during the mission, because Corky sniffed-out several explosives before he was injured.
"That day's events speaks volumes. That was actually the third incident on that day within a few hours. They had already found multiple explosive devices, thankfully nobody was injured by those devices. It took three ambushes in order to stop them. Our job is important because nobody was killed that day, not one person," Collins said.
Goldenthal said was pleased with the care he and his dog had received since they were shot, and even though they weren't ready to come home, he is glad to be on Fort Leonard Wood.
"I've been treated so well. A lot of the medics and nurses have been so nice to us both," Goldenthal said.
"I am looking forward to being back with my family."