He Rescues This Puppy. The Message The Dog Brings To His Family Later Shook Them To Their Core
Rhonda and Skip Rollins couldn't have been more proud of their son Justin. He was a successful Army Specialist, in a healthy relationship, and was fighting for our freedom off in war-torn Iraq.
Facebook/Rollins Ride A True Soldier
Justin was a talented soldier and had recently been promoted to squad sniper. He was even offered a position as a recruiter but he wanted to put his God-given talents to good use.
"He kicked and screamed and wanted to be in Iraq," his dad said to Military Times.
Planning To Start His Own Family
Justin was scheduled to have a trip home where he planned to propose to his longtime girlfriend Brittney. He had even purchased a 3-carat diamond ring for the special day.
Facebook/Rollins Ride Part Of The Rollins Family
"We love Brittany like she was our own daughter," Skip Rollins said to Army officials. "We were looking forward to having her as our daughter-in-law."
His mother explains that Brittney was her son's first and only true love. They were inseparable and deep in love.
Facebook/Rollins Ride A Joyous Evening
Brittney got an excited call from Justin one night saying that he and his friends had found a litter of puppies and couldn't wait to show her them.
Facebook/Rollins Ride Grateful For A Break
The tough men spent the rest of the night playing with the puppies and having a much-needed carefree evening.
Facebook/Rollins Ride But When Dawn Broke
The following morning, Justin and his troop headed out for the day's mission. They were traveling through
Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near their unit.
Six soldiers, including Justin, were killed. He was only 22 years old...
The five other men killed in that attack are listed below:
Staff Sgt. Justin M. Estes, 25, of Sims, Arkansas
Staff Sergeant Robert M. Stanley, 27, of Spotsylvania, Virginia
Sergeant Andrew C. Perkins, 27, of Northglenn, Colorado
Specialist Ryan M. Bell, 21, of Colville, Washington
Private First Class Cory C. Kosters, 19, of The Woodlands, Texas
Please be sure to keep them in your thoughts and prayers this Veterans Day as well.
Screenshot via ABC News Any Family's Worst Nightmare
Rhonda knew something was wrong.
"At six thirty in the morning I was getting ready for work, and I felt a jolt just go right through me. And instinctively I thought of Justin, and I thought, boy, I hope everything's OK, it just was the weirdest feeling I've ever had."
A few hours after Rhonda got that strange gut feeling, she and Skip watched as the dreaded Army vehicle approached their home. They opened the door to the men and were hit with the worst news imaginable - their loving son was killed in action.
Facebook/Rollins Ride Putting Him To Rest The Way He Would've Wanted
In a phone call just a few weeks before his death, Justin mentioned to his father that
there was, "no greater honor than to be buried in Arlington Cemetery."
And that's exactly where he was put to rest.
Facebook/Rollins Ride The Only Thing They Wanted
During Justin's funeral, an Army official asked if there was anything he could do to help the grieving family.
Without hesitation, Rhonda said she wanted the puppy she saw in the images right before his death. That puppy had made her son smile in a time of war and it was what she wanted more than anything.
Brittney understood why they wanted that puppy specifically.
"It was the last bit of happiness Justin had."
Knowing this was a difficult task, the Army official warned her that the chances of making it happen were a million to one. But he would try his best to make it happen.
A Little Piece Of Justin Was Coming Home
To their surprise,
U.S. Representative Paul Hodes contacted the U.S. Central Command, which then ordered Justin's own 8 2nd Airborne Division to go out and find the puppy and turn it over to the delivery company DHL.
nydailynews.com A Dream Come True
The mission was a huge success and the puppy, aptly named Hero, was headed to her new home in the United States.
It was an incredibly emotional day for everyone.
nydailynews.com All Eyes On Hero
When Hero arrived in the United States, she was greeted by bright lights, big cameras and lots of rubs! Everyone wanted to capture Justin and Hero's touching story.
Screenshot via ABC News Then The Miracle Happened
But it was during one particular interview on a dreary day at Rhonda and Skip's home in Vermont where something truly magical happened.
During filming, the clouds broke and a bright light shone down from Heaven directly where Hero was standing. They just knew Justin was there with them, even on the darkest of days.
Screenshot via ABC News A Hero's "Hero"
The reporter assigned to the story was just as shocked as the rest of the family. She explained this to her own cameramen later.
"It was an unforgettable moment and made me wonder if in fact Justin was in there."
Justin left his grieving family, girlfriend and friends with one last bit of hope and happiness. Hero stands by their sides just a he would have wanted.
postandcourier.com Spreading The Word
Now Rhonda and Brittney share this amazing moment with others and to encourage them to
support our troops the best way they can.
They even host an annual motorcycle run called
Rollins Ride to raise awareness about Justin's death and those of other brave soldiers.
zimbio.com The Whole Story
If you want to watch Justin's full story, click play on the video below.
VIDEO This Veterans Day
Make sure you thanks those who have fought to defend our freedom this Veterans Day. They put their lives on the line everyday to ensure we live the way we do.
To all of the veterans reading - we are forever thankful for your service and we hope you enjoy this day in your honor. God bless you!