Just in time to celebrate Independence Day, here's an incredible story of two brothers in arms who found their way back to each other after years apart.
In 2010, Marine Lance Corporal Brad O'Keefe was serving in Afghanistan when he suffered grave injuries from an IED explosion. According to NBC, had it not been for a warning from his partner, a bomb-sniffing dog named Earl, O'Keefe and 13 of his fellow troops may have lost their lives.
O'Keefe was sent home to Rochester, N.Y., due to his injuries and Earl was reassigned, but the soldier never forgot the dog who served with him and saved his life.
"I tried to move on because I didn't know what was going to happen," he told WPRO. "But there was always a place in my heart for him."
O'Keefe and his family continued to search for Earl over the years. His sister, Rachel Lawson, set up a Facebook page called 'Bring MWD Earl Home' in the hope of finding the dog. Earlier this year, they traced him to Rhode Island, where he was working with state police.
On June 21, the pair was reunited in a ceremony at the State Police headquarters in Scituate, R.I., WPRO reports, and the family has since received even more good news.
“They're letting us adopt Earl. No strings attached, no extra expenses,” Lawson told WHAM.
After the lengthy separation, O'Keefe is determined to make the most of his time with Earl. "He slept in the bed with me last night," the former Marine told YNN. "We are going to spend as much time together as we can."
Now the family is on a mission to reunite other military handlers and their K9 partners. Lawson has since rebranded the page that helped find Earl as 'Boots And Collars' and has already begun helping other soldiers reconnect with their four-legged brothers.
"He's just one dog. I love all of them and I want to do this for other people," Lawson told YNN. "We just want to pay it forward."