Warrior Canine Connection’s Nick

| February 7, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Photo by Bonnie Grower

Photo by Bonnie Grower

First off, thanks to all of my regular readers who have been clamoring for more on WCC’s Honor Litter – I appreciate all the comments and encourage them. Keep them coming!  In the meantime, are you ready for another feature of Warrior Canine Connection’s Honor Litter?  Today, we shine the spotlight on WCC’s Nick and his Puppy Parents (family).

As many of you know, Nick is named for Nick Null, a proud member of a Navy Seal team who was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.  So, it is fitting that Nick (WCC’s Nick) was placed in the loving care of a family with a rich connection to the military.  It always amazes me to see the connections, the links, the small ways in which a larger circle forms.  It is indeed, in many ways, a very small world.  More about this connection later.

When I first started this project, one of my questions was “are the dogs allowed to be, well, dogs?  Do they have ‘off duty’ hours in which they can just play and be goofy, or are they always working?”  The answer is yes!  When their vest is on, they are working dogs, when the vest is off, they are dogs.  They still have to mind and follow the rules, but they are allowed to let their ears down, if you will, and have fun!!  So in this feature, I hope to do two things – introduce you to the amazing people who are raising Nick, and share with you some photos of Nick playing and being his puppy self.  This is a little bit of a blast from the past, as most of the pictures you will see here were taken a few months ago, when we had blankets of snow on the ground.  So pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and settle in.

Meet Nick’s Puppy Parents, Monnica and Dick.

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Photo by Bonnie Grower

Monnica is not only the daughter of a US Air Force Colonel (and C-130 pilot), but she is also an extraordinary military wife.  Personally, I don’t think the role of military spouse can ever be underestimated.  Having a strong, independent, and fiercely loyal spouse holding down the fort on the home front enables our men and women in uniform to deploy and do what needs to be done, without worrying about what they will come home to.  Most military spouses weren’t born into a military family, and therefore have no clue what to expect and how to deal with the unexpected.  That’s why women like Monnica are precious gems. Without their experience and council, many new military spouses would be lost and cave under the pressure.

Her husband Dick, is also a retired USAF Colonel, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and a C-130 pilot.  He is a veteran of the Vietnam war and served our country for over 30 years.  As an interesting aside, Dick’s father and three uncles were all West Point graduates, and World War II veterans.  Can you imagine their mother, having all four of her sons in WWII?

Carrying on the family tradition, Monnica and Dick’s children pretty much have all the branches of service covered!  Their daughter, Maureen, is a Family Readiness Officer for a Marine helicopter group, and her husband is a Captain in the Marine Corps and graduate of the US Naval Academy. He flies CH-53 helicopters.  Their son, Roderic, is a West Point graduate, and is currently a Captain in the Army.  Their other son, Brian, is a US Air Force Academy graduate, and is a Captain in the Air Force, flying C-17 Globemasters.  Finally, their daughter Nicole serves her country well by being Nick’s primary puppy sitter, and no doubt, as referee whenever the service academy ball games are on!!  Seriously, can you imagine being at their house for the Army-Navy or Army-Air Force or Navy-Air Force games?  [editor’s note:  FYI, Navy pretty much always wins anyhow!  Haha!!]

Anyway, remember when I mentioned connections and what a small world this really is?  What I am about to share with you is the unbelievable connection that Monnica and Dick’s son, Roderic, or Rory as his friends and family call him, had to Nick Null.  As you may recall, Nick Null was in Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down. (Read more about Nick Null here)  But at the very same time, Rory’s platoon was in the same location.  I’ll let Rory’s words tell you the story…prepare to have the hair stand up on your arms…

“We (2-30 Infantry) worked in the same area.  In the weeks prior, I had the privilege of working with Nick’s element. They were all consummate professionals; the perfect mix between amiable giants and relentless perfectionists. You have no idea what you’re getting into when you go over, so it is always an honor to work with people who love their job as much as the men of [Nick Null’s final mission aboard] Extortion 17.  The night before, my platoon had been co-located with Nick Null’s team to facilitate their operation.  I met with Jonas, the team leader.  He asked if I wanted to come on a mission that was going to happen the next night. I wanted to but that’s not my call.  At the last minute we had to go do a separate mission that night.  As we departed, Nick’s helicopter passed over our position headed to the Tangi Valley.  We heard the explosion. You don’t think about these things when they happen, until the somber call comes over the net, “Fallen angel. I say again, fallen angel”.  There was a pregnant pause over the radio as the call was made, “fallen angel.” It was a phrase mentioned only as a contingency in missions prior.  We were turned around, packed our bags and headed west. My platoon walked 20 km over the next 24 hours.  We took contact three or four times but successfully set up a screen position to all the brave Rangers to collect our fallen brothers.
The chaos of the ensuing weeks consumed us all really. In the face of something like that, we all have something to offer because we all lost something.
When I was able to come home and meet my new brother (WCC’s Nick), it was surreal to think I had been reacquainted with a fellow warrior. Calm and reserved but evidently purpose filled, Nick fits the part of his namesake. I can’t fathom the things that bring us all together but I can say that Nick has made a lasting impression on every single person he has come in contact with. For me, Nick is my brother, he is my friend and he is a reminder of an inspiration to constantly strive to be better than we thought we could be.”

Rory, thank you so much for sharing your story with us!!

 

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Photo by Bonnie Grower

 

Continue to learn more about Nick, Monnica, and Rory by clicking here on Bonnie’s blog!

Category : Blog, Feature Story

Bonnie Grower

About the Author ()

Annapolis Maryland-based pet photographer Bonnie Grower has been making stunning images of animals for nearly a decade. Her ability to uncover and showcase their individual personalities delights her clients and captures their hearts. Bonnie began her career by making a photographic record of her frequent and far-flung travels. Along the way, she found that animals grabbed her attention no matter where she was – making zoos and animal parks first on the itinerary in every country she visited. This fascination with the inner and outer lives of animals led to a decision to focus exclusively on pet photography. Bonnie has lived all over the United States, from Maine to Hawaii, and has photographed in the most diverse settings imaginable. On this journey, she has trained and honed her craft under two world-renowned pet photographers. Volunteerism is a key tenet of Bonnie’s life. She donates her time, energy and photographic talent to several organizations, including Warrior Canine Connection, America's Vet Dogs, Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association, and the Annapolis SPCA. Her work has led to higher awareness and understanding of the work and lives of service dogs, and also to the speedy adoption of dozens of animals. Bonnie is available for custom pet photography sessions for dogs, cats, turtles, rabbits…you name it. Her photography has been showcased on Good Morning America, and will also be featured in an upcoming National Geographic children’s book. You can see more of her work online at www.bonniegrower.com.

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