While millions of Americans celebrate Fourth of July with family barbeques and fireworks, one innovative organization honors our country in a much different way. As they do every day of the year, the volunteers and foster home caregivers of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (G.A.S.P.) find and provide loving, safe homes for the pets of deployed military men and women. Their ultimate goal – ensuring that military service members are reunited with their pets upon returning home.
“Our military service members sacrifice so much for our country,” said Linda Spurlin-Dominik, National President and CEO of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. “By providing safe homes for their pets, it is our hope that we can help cut down on the anxiety and uncertainty of deployment and, at the same time, say ‘thank you’ for their service and sacrifice.”
Through its network of foster families, G.A.S.P. has helped place 40 pets in homes throughout the U.S. and is today working to build a permanent pet sanctuary in Hot Springs, Arkansas, so the organization can expand its services to a larger number of deployed members of the military.
A Soldier’s Story
Major Randall G. Baucom knows the value of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet firsthand. “When I was facing deployment to Iraq, I was going through a very difficult time in my life,” said Major Baucom. “Iraq was only the beginning of it.”
In addition to his impending deployment, Major Baucom was dealing with a divorce and coping with the death of his mother. He was alone and did not know anyone who could properly care for his two dogs, Buster and Little Girl. Then he heard about G.A.S.P. He quickly moved to place his dogs with a Guardian Angels foster family.
During Major Baucom’s 15 months in Iraq, a team of foster families cared for Buster and Little Girl. When he returned to the U.S. in January 2008, his dogs were waiting for him, safe and sound.
“It was really a special reunion,” said Major Baucom. “After so many changes in my life, my dogs were there to give me a kind of steady support that I couldn’t find anywhere else.”
Carrying on a Son’s Legacy
The work of G.A.S.P. would not be possible without its dedicated team of volunteers and foster families. Crucial to the program’s success are people like Rita Stokes, Virginia State Coordinator.
An animal lover all of her life, Stokes instilled the same compassion for animals in her son Sean. “When we brought him home from the hospital, he came home to dogs, cats and a big fish tank,” recalled Hayes. “From there, it was on to spiders, snakes and lizards.”
When Sean grew up and became a Corporal in the Marines, his love for animals never wavered. Before going to Iraq, he told his mom that he intended on getting a Doberman when he returned home. Sadly, Marine Corporal Sean Stokes never had a chance to get that pet; he was killed in action in July 2007.
Shortly thereafter, Rita Stokes became involved with Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. “Sean wouldn’t be surprised at all,” she said. “He knew how much I loved animals, and my work with Guardian Angels is a natural extension of that.”
How to Help
Because of the efforts of people like Linda and Rita, military service members like Major Baucom know that their pets are being cared for in a safe environment while they are overseas.
For more information on providing a foster home, becoming a volunteer, or making a donation to Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, please visit www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org or call (501) 760-3875 (National contact) or (615) 942-8389 (TN contact)
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet is an ALL volunteer 501 (c) (3) non-profit Federal Tax Exempt public charity supporting our military service members, veterans and their beloved pets through our “Foster Home”; program aimed at reuniting pet(s) and owner following deployment or an emergency hardship.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet
167 Candleberry Cir
Hot Springs, AR 71913-2109
Main #: (501) 760-3875
“Supporting our Military, Veterans, and their Beloved Pets”