Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana 
and Rex

An Airman, a dog and an act of Congress
By Chip Reid, Correspondent NBC News
Dec 6, 2005

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - They had worked together for three years — Air Force Tech Sergeant Jamie Dana and her bomb sniffing dog, Rex — when, last June in Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee.

Sgt. Dana, with massive internal bleeding, a fractured spine and collapsed lungs, had one question for the doctors.

“I said, ‘Is my dog dead?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And that just breaks your heart,” she recalls.

Dr. Paul Morton was one of the doctors. Last Friday, he and Dana met for the first time since that day. 

“We were all worried about you that day,” he told her. “We thought you were going to die.”

But through it all, Morton says, Dana never stopped asking about Rex — refusing to believe he had died.

The news finally came weeks later while she recuperated at a military hospital (Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington DC).

“They told me he was coming down the hall,” Dana says. “So I whistled at him and he came running into the room. He jumped up on the bed with me and got tangled up in my IV line.”

Now Dana wants to adopt Rex, and she has the support of the Air Force.

“She and Rex went through that together,” says Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, “And I think our leadership feels that they need to heal together.”

But there's still a problem. It takes an act of Congress for a military working dog to retire early. If Congress does not act, Rex will be taken away from Dana and brought to a military dog training facility at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Dana's injuries will probably force her to retire from the military soon. While she waits, she volunteers at an animal sanctuary and dreams of becoming another kind of vet: a veterinarian. She wants Rex to be a part of whatever she ends up doing. 

“I pray every day,” she says, “that Rex will be a part of it.”

He's not just her best friend, she says, but the key to her recovery.

Now it's up to Congress to decide if they stay together. Currently, Rex's retirement is attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill. A spokesman for Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., who represents Dana's district, says "it's not a matter of whether the act passes, it's a matter of when."

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

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A woman and her best friend, reunited

Yes, there will be a dog in the first lady’s box at the State of the Union

WASHINGTON - In the halls of Congress Tuesday were two Iraq war veterans: Air Force Tech Sgt. Jamie Dana and her bomb-sniffing dog, Rex. For three years they were inseparable. Then, last June in Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee.

Dana — with collapsed lungs, organ damage and massive internal bleeding — almost died.

Rex, though, had only minor injuries and would soon be assigned to a new partner. But Dana, believing Rex was vital to her recovery, asked the Air Force for permission to adopt him.

The answer was yes, but it would take an act of Congress to grant a military working dog early retirement. Acting with unusual speed, Congress voted to change the law, the president signed it and two-and-a-half weeks ago, Dana officially adopted Rex.

In December, when NBC interviewed Dana, she was still walking with a cane — and was still terrified of losing Rex, saying, “We went to Iraq together. We almost died together. I mean, how can you top that?”

But Tuesday she said she can finally stop worrying. Dana and Rex made the rounds on Capitol Hill, thanking members of Congress who made it possible.

“It's such a wonderful feeling knowing he can't be taken away from me,” Dana says.

Tuesday night it is Dana and Rex who will be honored. They will sit in the first lady's box at the State of the Union address — a way for the president and the nation to say thank you to an inseparable team.

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive

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Wounded Airman meets doctor who saved her life

By 1st Lt. Tracy Giles
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- More than five months, 8,000 miles and countless prayers led up to an unlikely reunion Dec. 2.

Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana and Maj. (Dr.) Paul Morton first ‘met’ June 25 on a hot summer day in Kirkuk, Iraq, that Major Morton described simply as chaotic. In contrast, the two met again Dec. 2 on a cold winter day in the relative calm of the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary in Monument, Colo.

Five months ago, Dana, a former 21st Security Forces Squadron dog handler here, hovered near the edge of death after taking the brunt of an improvised explosive device detonation from directly underneath her Humvee seat during a convoy patrol near Kirkuk Air Base. The sergeant received the Purple Heart July 22.

Morton, a 10th Medical Group emergency room physician stationed at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., was one member of the twenty-person-plus Kirkuk medical trauma team who helped save her life that day.

Morton said Dana’s lungs were severely injured, and she had massive internal bleeding requiring 19 blood transfusions to keep her alive.

“Our entire team thought she was going to die,” Morton said.

Dana was lifted into a Black Hawk helicopter and evacuated to Balad Air Base, Iraq, accompanied by Morton and a team of medics.

“The helicopter ride was the scariest 45 minutes of my life and career,” Morton said. “Jamie almost died multiple times, and I remember myself vividly praying. I’m amazed to see her alive today.”

Morton and Dana have been in touch via e-mail for the past month, but this was the first time since Iraq they had been able to meet in person. Upon seeing each other the two embraced, and Major Morton said, “You look a lot better than the last time we met.”

Dana doesn’t remember much from the first meeting other than a split second of confusion and asking to see her military working dog, Rex, who was with her in the blast.

During the helicopter flight, Morton said his team of medics almost lost her. “She had an inner strength and something deep inside of her to stay alive that was outside of this world,” he said.

Shortly after the IED attack, word spread quickly back to her family, friends and coworkers here. They set up a Web site dedicated to supporting Dana, took donations and offered many prayers on her behalf.

Today, the Web site has received more than 360 heartfelt messages of encouragement and support from family, military and civilian friends around the world.

That support remained constant throughout her critical days at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, into the painful months of recovery and surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Md., and through her homecoming here.

“Jamie’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous,” said Maj. Paul Cairney, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander. “She is very blessed to be alive.”

Dana is by no means fully recovered but hopes remain high for her continued improvement. She walks with a cane and takes medication daily for pain. Her life has been forever altered, but many have been inspired by her true, fighting spirit.

Her strong will is clearly evident today—she is determined to live life to the fullest, move forward, attend veterinary school and pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She also plans to continue to volunteer, much as she did before the attack, and care for the horses and animals of the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary.

“I love working with animals,” she said. “They are a major part of my life, and I don’t want to give it up.”

Despite all she has been through, she says she has no regrets. “I wanted to be a part of it, and I would go back to Iraq in a heartbeat if I could,” she said.

“I want to support the troops and recognize the men and women who are putting their lives on the line every day and dying for our country,” she added. “And I want to thank my family, friends and the Air Force who have all been behind me every step of the way.”


Airman meets doctor who saved her life

MONUMENT, Colo. (AFPN) -- Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana and her former military working dog, Rex, met Maj. (Dr.) Paul Morton at an animal sanctuary where the sergeant volunteers. Major Morton helped save Sergeant Dana's life after an improvised explosive device detonated under her Humvee near Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. Major Morton is with the 10th Medical Group at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Sergeant Dana is with the 21st Security Forces Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo)




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