Many brave servicemen and servicewomen rely on each other to perform their duties and sacrifices for their country. But often, they also rely on other courageous souls of the four-legged variety. This was the case for a veteran military dog named Rico whose steadfastness and bravery touched the lives of everyone he met.
After 12 1/2 years of life, many dedicated in service to this country, Rico's health problems became too much for him to overcome. His owners, the Beckleys of Saugatuck, Michigan, decided to take the humane action and euthanize him.
But the Beckleys wanted to celebrate his life and accomplishments first, and decided to give Rico an honorable military send-off before his final mission.
Rico's military record spans two tours in Afghanistan, 240 missions, and roughly 30 firefights. But he is most remembered for his loyalty to his handler and partner, Russ Beckley Jr., a soldier from a family with four generations worth of military service to America. Beckley Jr. told WRAL TV, "There was not a moment that it wasn't his mission or his goal to be by my side. I was everything to him, and he was everything to me."
But when the time came to retire from active duty, Rico found a new home with his partner's parents, Tammy and Russ Beckley Sr. At first, Beckley Sr. was uneasy about Rico. He told TODAY, “When I first picked him up in North Carolina, I was leery of him [...] He was trained as an aggressor […] I was happy to be on his journey, but I knew what he was capable of.”
Whereas his partner had been his world in war, Rico found a new partner in Beckley Sr., who quickly became his companion and best friend. “He lived for me every minute,” said Beckley Sr. “At night I would get up to go to the bathroom, and he would lay down by the door. If I left for a weekend, he wouldn’t eat until I got home.
“Every day, I couldn’t wait to get home from work. He would give out three or four deep barks. My wife would be waiting with a cup of coffee, and Rico would cry until we took him outside.”
Like father, like son. Beckley Sr. found that he became everything to Rico, and Rico was everything to him, or in Beckley Sr.'s words, "one of the best things to ever happen to me."
Beckley Sr. stated, "“Children, spouses, we all have our lives, but Rico lived his life for me [...] It was humbling.”
Rico's service was open to the community, and dozens of citizens showed up to pay their respects to him and to say goodbye. Both Beckleys gave loving tributes to their loyal dog before the family vet arrived to euthanize him. Rico was then carried out in a flag-draped coffin.
Rico has left a permanent impression on the Beckleys who will forever remember him with love and gratitude. Beckley Sr. says that as Rico drew his final breaths, "I was thinking about how loyal he was to my family, to my son, to myself, and to our country."
Beckley Jr. shared that he "thanked Rico for everything that he's done for me, and I told him that I loved him."
We salute you, Rico, for your unwavering loyalty to our country and your family. Watch Rico's moving send-off below, and be sure to share his incredible story with your friends and family on Facebook.