Oki was not a pet of mine but over the years I have to admit I feel very close to a dog I have never met. If you drive into our hospital you can’t miss him. I am very proud to tell you he is buried on our grounds.

Oki was the third most decorated dog in World War II. His story is one of bravery and courage. I am not qualified to tell you the story but will give some details. What really hits home about Oki is that along with his owner, Robert Harr, they are the shining example of the human animal bond.

Oki was assigned to Robert and another marine on a demolition team. He was trained to detect the enemy as they moved through the jungle in Okinawa. He warned Bob of trouble by silently pressing into his leg. A situation developed that resulted in one hundred and fifty marines being trapped behind enemy lines. Oki had their location attached to his collar and managed after being shot to deliver their location to the troops waiting on shore and no lives were lost. He later lost part of his jaw due to a machete wound.

During this time the military dogs were normally euthanized at the end of their service. Robert and his friends had another plan in mind. They arranged passage home for Oki. He made it back to New Jersey and after being reunited with Robert he was demilitarized over a nine month period. Oki and Bob were invited to the white house to be decorated by President Harry Truman. Bob tells me that when President Truman entered the room with the medal in his hand, Oki got serious look on his face and silently leaned into Bob’s leg. Oh, oh. Fortunately, President Truman was a very perceptive man. He immediately handed the medal to an assistant and left the room.

Although the story can be told better, one has to sit with Robert Harr to really understand the bond they shared. I sat in a restaurant one afternoon with Bob and asked him to retell the story. By the time he was done we both had tears in our eyes and I noticed the entire restaurant had grown quiet and everyone was listening. It isn’t just the heroism of Oki but the lifetime of devotion between a man and the dog he loved. To this day, every Memorial Day Marines will quietly arrive at our hospital to pay tribute to their hero.

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