Air Force K9 Handler Married Soldier Who Saved Her Life

This is an incredible story. Love sure brings people together in the most unique ways. This Air Force military working dog team is struck by an IED(improvised explosive device). Although badly wounded, she and her military working dog Rex survive. The US Army medic who comes to her aid, saves her life, and they eventually get married. On top of all that, they are allowed to adopt her military working dog Rex. I wish these two all the best. The article, which is from the Air Force Times is below. 

Jamie’s war wounds

K-9 handler adopted her Air Force dog and married the soldier who saved her life. But she’s still struggling to recover

By Michael Hoffman – Staff writer, Air Force Times

Every married couple has a story about the first time they met. Mike and Jaime Mangan met on the battlefield in Iraq.

She was severely wounded, and he almost let her die.

Jaime, then an Air Force K-9 handler with the 21st Security Forces Squadron, was patrolling Baghdad on June 25, 2005, with her working dog, Rex. They were searching for improvised explosive devices.

On the drive back to base in her Humvee, Jamie drove over one.

The explosion flung her onto the street, where she lay unconscious. Mike, an Army sergeant first class with the 1159th Medical Company, was the first medic to reach her.

Jaime’s lungs had collapsed, her pelvis was shattered, and three vertebrae in her spine were fractured. Mike later discovered she also was bleeding internally, and her spleen had ruptured.

He had to make a snap decision: Should he spend time trying to save her or — due to the seriousness of her injuries — move on to help others who might have a better chance of surviving?

As luck would have it, several factors allowed him to focus on Jaime.

The helicopter that took him and other soldiers to the scene was ready to depart immediately, so he got there quicker than usual. In addition, he had a new medic working with him, so he could afford to spend time with Jaime.

“If I hadn’t had the extra medic that day and we had been five minutes later, she would have been someone I had to leave behind,” he said.

When Mike finally left Jaime’s side, he had no reason to think he would see her again. And he wouldn’t have — except for Rex.

The German shepherd survived the IED attack with only a singed nose and was found walking near the blast site. Jaime, rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., thought the dog had been killed, but once she found out he survived, she wanted to adopt him.

Rex was nowhere near retirement age, however, and under Title 10, U.S. Code 2583, the Air Force couldn’t release Rex if he was still young and healthy enough to work.

Jaime chose to fight that law, going public with her plea. Many newspapers and TV news stations carried stories on her plight. Soon, members of Congress and former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley took notice and backed her request.

On Dec. 30, 2005, President Bush signed into law a bill to allow working dogs to be adopted by their handlers after a traumatic event.

So Jaime was able to take Rex home. Together, they attended the 2006 State of the Union speech as guests of first lady Laura Bush in the House gallery.

“The entire process was a neat deal,” said Jaime’s dad, Randy Himes. “Rex is now part of the family. We have not one but two Air Force members now.”


Photo Courtesy of JOHN NORMILE
Mike and Jamie Mangan with Rex outside their farm in Smethport Pennsylvania on August 4. Jamie and Rex were a team in Iraq where Jamie was gravely injured by an IED in 2005. Mike Mangan was the first medic on the scene and saved her life, and they eventually were married.

BUDDING ROMANCE

Home from his deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq, Mike, 47, read about Jaime’s battle to bring Rex home and instantly recognized her face.

By then, Jaime was back at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. One of Mike’s friends, an officer at the base, sent pictures of the ceremony when she received the Purple Heart. The friend encouraged him to call her.

He did.

“I started off saying, ‘I want to apologize ahead of time if this upsets you, but my name is Mike and I was the flight medic the day you were wounded,’” he recalled.

“Then there was just silence and I was like, ‘Man, I stepped on it.’”

Stunned, Jaime eventually explained that she was trying to piece together exactly what happened after the IED exploded. She had no coherent memories for a month after the blast occurred. She and Mike talked for 45 minutes.

“She ended the conversation saying, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’ I just said, ‘Don’t say that to me on the telephone. I want to meet you,’” Mike said.

The two spoke on the phone and e-mailed for three months before Mike — who was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. — took a trip to Peterson in August 2006.

“It was great that I got to say thank you,” she said. “I also got to fill in some voids and, at the same time, I felt the need to get to know him.”

MEDICALLY RETIRED

Jaime, 29, had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian after her service, but when she returned to school, it was impossible for her to concentrate on coursework or study for tests.

“I used to be a straight-A student, but now I can’t learn new things or remember formulas,” she said.

The IED had left her with traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq war.

She has the classic symptoms: memory loss, migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating and violent mood swings.

“In the beginning, you would call her and she would never call you back just because she could never remember,” said Staff Sgt. Tony Davis, a former co-worker.

Jaime still suffers excruciating pain that makes it hard to walk and to sleep at night, she said.

The jagged scars on her chest serve as a reminder of the multiple surgeries she endured. Doctors removed her spleen and fused her spine to the inside of her pelvis after the attack.

Jaime said it’s unlikely she’ll be able to have children.

She wanted to remain in uniform, but her injuries forced her to medically retire as a technical sergeant.

“Leaving the Air Force was real difficult for her,” Himes said.

REUNION

Mike flew to Peterson for Jaime’s retirement ceremony, and the two began dating.

Jaime moved back East to her hometown of Smethport, Pa., to be closer to her family.

Mike retired from the Army in June 2007 as a first sergeant after 26 years and moved to Pennsylvania, where he works at the local hospital as a registered nurse.

Four months after they started dating, the two got married in a small ceremony in November 2006.

“I think Mike would have liked to have had a bigger wedding, but I just couldn’t handle it, and he understood that,” Jaime said.

Mike and Jaime lean on each other for support.

“There are good days and bad days,” he said. “There are days she is in so much pain she can’t even sleep and there are times her mind isn’t in the same ZIP code … but at least I know the source of the pain and it’s easier when you are both dealing with it,” Mike said.

Jaime now investigates child abuse cases as a social worker for the McKean County Children and Youth Services Agency.

She also volunteers as an emergency medical technician for the Hamlin Township fire department, where her father is the chief.

But what Jaime says she finds most therapeutic is working with Rex and taking care of her five horses.

“It’s mentally relaxing just brushing them,” she said. The horses “don’t judge you or demand anything from you. I just can’t connect with people anymore, it’s too stressful.”

However, Jaime says she could soon lose those horses because she won’t be able to afford them. The Veterans Affairs Department recently reduced her disability rating from 100 percent to 70 percent, following a medical re-examination. That cut her monthly disability payment from $2,500 to $1,100.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, who helps service members navigate the VA process, said it’s not uncommon for ratings to drop as a patient gets better.

But, Mike said he finds it difficult to understand.

“I don’t look at it as critical income, but for you to give up your organs like that, and then someone says it’s not worth that compensation anymore. Geez.”

Losing those organs isn’t what bothers Jaime the most, though. It’s her luck.

The hardest part of her recovery has been thinking of the more than 1,800 service members who have died from IED blasts.

“I have a hard time with the fact that I survived,” she said. “Maybe [Mike] should have just walked away. There are so many soldiers who have died that have kids and had families.

“I don’t have kids. I don’t have anyone that needed me there. I just wish I could have taken somebody else’s place.”

One Response to “Air Force K9 Handler Married Soldier Who Saved Her Life”

  1. Randall T Miller Says:

    Honorable Commandant of Camp Pendleton, California.

    Dear Sir,

    Please help save Sgt. Rex a vetted war hero that deserves life instead of a bureaucratic red tape certain death..

    Furthermore, please allow his immediate adoption by decorated [Purple Heart] vetted war hero Cpl. Megan Leavie, USMC Retired.

    Thank you sir for reading my words as well please ‘Pardon’ Sgt.Rex

    May God Always Bless and Protect You, Your Family with all United States of America Military personnel active and retired planet wide.

    Semper FI Sir!

    Randall T Miller
    949.777.5353

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