They might not have been able to reunite this soldier with his four-legged combat hero, but Operation Build Up provided the next best thing.
Steve Welch, a police officer at Veteran Affairs in Canandaigua, formed a bond with a German Shepherd named Benny while in the military as a bomb dog handler in Afghanistan.
Welch lost contact with Benny when his deployment ended and was never able to reunite with his partner.
His family, friends and Operation-Build-Up teamed up to help fill the void with a new dog.
Justin Cogswell, founder of Operation Build Up, said the organization helps support area veterans in a variety of ways so helping Welch find a new dog was second nature.
“Typically we surprise veterans with vehicles, homes,” Cogswell said. “We thought that this female German Shepherd that we had would be an amazing fit for him. Not to replace Benny, but to fill some of the wounds in his heart.”
Welch said he’s grateful for the kind gesture.
“It’s very greatly appreciated,” said Welch. “He [Benny] saved my life twice in a combat zone. He was an explosives detection dog. I felt I owed it to him to be able to say goodbye one more time."