While on patrol, PFC Donny Eslinger Jr. was taken with "the friendliest face I saw in Afghanistan" - a young puppy.
PFC Eslinger traded 3 cigarettes for the puppy, whom he named "Smoke Pup Barbarian," and stashed him in his backpack. A month later, PFC Eslinger was critically wounded, suffering a penetrating chest wound, a head injury, broken ribs, broken leg, and loss of his spleen. He was medevaced to Germany, placed in a medically induced coma, and eventually transferred to Walter Reed hospital.
Meanwhile, Smoke proved to be a morale booster for the members of PFC Eslinger's platoon, especially after a member of the platoon was killed a few days after Eslinger was wounded. SSG Daniel said it best.
"Smoke was the only bit of morale that made these kids forget where they were and cope with the tragedy we just experienced. It is amazing how therapeutic a little creature can be. Itís funny how something as simple as a puppy can make even the hardest, toughened soldier melt upon a few kisses to the face. Donny took care of that dog up until he was injured. Many of us (in his Platoon) would love nothing more than to see Smoke reunited with Donny. It would be the only decent thing we would see come from this place."
The platoon vowed to reunite Eslinger with smoke. The filled out the proper paperwork, raised the thousands of dollars necessary, and finally flew Smoke to Florida to be with Eslinger.
Smoke arrived in Orlando last week. Eslingers' family then drove the pup to Bethesda, MD and the two were reunited at last. Elsinger's father has arranged to board the dog with a veterinarian near Walter Reed so the pup can visit his son.