June 4, 2013
LCpl Bradley O’Keefe was a dog handler for the Marine Corps 3/6 Lima Co, stationed at Camp Lejeune NC. In January of 2010, he was sent to a training facility and became 2nd in his class, dog handler with a black lab named Earl. In February they deployed together to Afghanistan. Together they successfully discovered 5-10 IED’s. But it only takes 1 second to change your life.
On April 14, 2010, an insurgent hit a button and right next to Brad, ending their military career together. Brad was seriously wounded and underwent surgery in Afghanistan to stabilize him for the flight to America, where he would face a long string of surgeries.
Brad explains what happened the last day he and Earl were together. “We were crossing a little foot bridge and I had Earl go out in front to make sure everything was cleared out. As we were crossing the bridge, I had everybody stop because I noticed that he was acting like there was something going on. Once he got close enough to it, there was a resurgent, pushed a button, and kind of blew us up.”
Earl sustained only minor wounds and remained in Afghanistan until the end of 3/6’s deployment. He continued to do the job he was trained to do. He would even deploy again with other units.
Brad eventually finished his hospital recovery and physical therapy and was out of the Marines in late 2012. He received a Purple Heart Medal for the wounds he received in the explosion. His military service is over. He wants his best friend back by his side.
Brad’s sister was inspired by a recent documentary called Glory Hounds by Animal Planet where SSGT Leonard Anderson of the U.S. Air Force went through an almost identical situation as Brad. SSGT Anderson returned home to Alaska and was met by his MWD Azza at the airport. Brad didn’t have the comfort of coming home to be greeted by his dog.
Earl has been found. He’s currently working in law enforcement in Rhode Island. Right now the family is waiting for word from RI State Police on what process they would like the family to follow and what the next step is. After speaking with the department, they learned they won’t hear anything until at least Thursday or Friday.
“We are anxious to meet Earl and reunite him with Brad, but most of all we are just happy that he is safe and that we were able to locate him. There is already so much relief in that regard, that waiting a few days for contact from RI us is a simple task we are happy to follow.”
Local news stations have been contacted and want to be on hand to cover the reunion, should it take place in Rhode Island.
Updates on Brad and Earl can be found on their Facebook page.