When Eduardo Choate Jr. found a sickly puppy in the middle of a dangerous highway in Afghanistan on March 18, he didn't think twice about saving it.
As Choate and other men nursed the dog - a Labrador retriever mix later named Rocket Bubba - a sense of camaraderie developed in their International Police unit, which is comprised of law enforcement officials from across the United States hired to train Afghan police.
The group has no military branch affiliation.
"We went from a somewhat distant group of people to a close group that was sitting together, holding the puppy, talking and smiling," Choate writes on Facebook. "It was funny to see grown (men) with weapons doing baby talk and petting the little guy."
Choate, 30, a K-9 deputy for the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, said Rocket Bubba defied the death that his comrades predicted would befall him.
In spite of "boosts (in) morale," Choate said the command staff "did not like the idea of the animal in the base" and ordered Rocket Bubba be euthanized, something Choate said he couldn't accept.
So using a Facebook page, he raised $3,500 to bring Rocket Bubba to the United States. The money will go toward services provided by an animal rescue agency that will assist with the dog's flight arrangements, documentation and other required fees, Choate said.
Rocket Bubba will be put on a plane today at Choate's base in Afghanistan, then flown to Kabul, said Choate's wife, Mandi. From there, the dog will be flown to Germany, where it will be quarantined for an undetermined amount of time, she said. Because of that, there's no set date for him to reach the United States, she said.
Any additional donations will be given to the animal rescue agency, she said.
The big-hearted behavior represented in Choate's money-raising efforts is not unusual, said his father, Ed Choate Sr.
HOW TO DONATE
E-mail Eduardo Choate Jr. at email@example.com or search "The Rocket Bubba page" on Facebook
"Besides being fun and intelligent, he has a character of helping people and animals," he said. "He's an animal and people lover."
Choate Jr. is schedulereturn on vacation from Afghanistan in October, his wife said, and he had been worried that he wouldn't be able to get enough money to take care of Rocket Bubba by then.
"He said: 'Mandi, if I leave him, how do I know he's still going to be here when I get back?'" she said.
At first, she was skeptical that the $3,500 could be raised.
"I'm going to be honest, I said, 'Ed, with this economic crisis that everybody's having, I can't tell you that people are going to be wanting to give a lot of money,'" she remembered. "He kept saying: 'Mandi, it doesn't hurt to try.'"