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Luis Montalvan and Tuesday (photo by Leslie Granda-hil)

President Obama announced a few weeks ago that all of our troops would be leaving Iraq by year’s end. Given that we’ve been in Iraq since 2003 you’d think Obama’s decision would have been greeted enthusiastically. You’d think.

Many on the political right complained that our withdrawal would allow Iran to take over Iraq. This is why we never should have overthrown Saddam in the first place, as he acted as a control on the Iranians. Oh well, too late now.

Veterans Day was established in 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It was known as Armistice Day and marked the end of WWI, billed as the “war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, since then we’ve been in seven wars, and three military interventions. It’s perhaps fitting on Veterans Day to acknowledge that we seem to love our wars.

One reason that the Iraq and Afghan wars are overlooked is less than 1 percent of the country will see action in these campaigns, therefore the vast majority of us are not personally affected. I’ve chosen Veterans Day to write about one who has.

Much-decorated former Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan served in the Army for 17 years and two years in Iraq. While leading soldiers from the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment and on a foot patrol with one of his men, Luis was attacked and stabbed. He suffered a brain injury and three cracked vertebrae.

After being honorably discharged, Luis returned home and moved to New York City. But he began experiencing debilitating post traumatic stress disorder. Haunted by the war and in constant physical pain (at one time on 20 different medications) he soon was unable to manage a simple flight of stairs.

Luis began to cut himself off from those he loved and became more and more isolated. He’d only venture out of his apartment briefly and, drinking heavily, often it was only to go to the liquor store. It was always very late at night so as not to see anyone. Luis’ emotional decline was so severe that he contemplated suicide. What saved this decorated war hero was a remarkable golden retriever named Tuesday.

Just as Luis needed help desperately so, in his own way, did Tuesday. Despite his intelligence and $25,000 worth of service dog training, Tuesday was floundering. That is, until he met Luis.

I likely never would have heard of Luis had he not written a book about his life, “Until Tuesday” (a New York Times bestseller). I happened to see it in the library and wondered what was Oscar doing on the cover. (Belonging to a disabled neighbor, Oscar is a golden retriever whom I walk almost daily.) As Luis puts it so aptly, “’Until Tuesday’ is a book about man and dog, war and healing, ability and disability. But perhaps, more than anything, it’s about spiritual restoration.”

As perhaps only a dog’s love can, Tuesday was able to help rekindle Luis’ ambition and hopes. Having read the book in a night, I can personally attest that you can’t help but be moved by Luis’ and Tuesday’s story. To get a glimpse, go to YouTube and type “Until Tuesday book trailer.” (But be sure to have a Kleenex handy.)

It’s been eight years since we invaded Iraq and 10 years since we invaded Afghanistan. Over 7,000 American GIs have lost their lives and over 100,000 have been wounded. Today is Veterans Day. To honor the soldiers one could go to the Arlington West Memorial on the beach north of the Santa Monica Pier. Or you could read a good book about sacrifice and hope. I suggest, “Until Tuesday.”

To learn more about Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan go to www.until-tuesday.com. Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.

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