"Cute kittens grow up to be cute cats" writes Arthur Chenkoff. They sure do! Take Private Hammer for example. Hammer is a brave tabby cat who provided some much appreciated support to American soldiers in Iraq:
"He was born at the site," said Staff Sgt. Rick Bousfield. "There were two other kittens in the litter, but they ran away. He stayed and kept mice out of our living quarters and out of our dining facility."
Adopted by the troops, the young cat provided warmth and companionship in an otherwise hostile environment. When the unit was attacked by mortar fire, Hammer ran to the bunkers, where the nearest soldier scooped him inside his body armor to wait out the attack.
"He was like our stress therapist over there," Bousfield recalled. "You’d come in off raids where we’d been kicking in doors and guys would be sitting outside by themselves. He’d come over and take their minds off the war."
After neutralizing 5 mice his Army buddies promoted him to private first class. "He should have been major," said Bousfield, "he caught a rat as big as he was."
When it was time to come back home Bousfield didn’t want to leave any of his men behind – and that included pfc Hammer. In an interview with CNN’s Daryn Kagan he explained "I’ve always been taught, you know, you never leave someone behind. And he’d been with us for so long, you know, and been such a benefit to us, you know, we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t leave him behind."
The trouble was, the army don’t let troops take pets on their flights. But Bousfield wasn’t about to give up. He started sending email messages to people he thought might be able to help. One of those messages reached Becky Robinson at Alley Cat Allies. "We had to say yes to an American soldier in Iraq," said Robinson. "We had to do it for the animal’s sake and the men’s sake. They were over there, fighting, doing their job – and rescuing a kitten."
Thanks the big hearted folks at Alley Cat Allies, and some help from Military Mascots, Hammer now shares a house in Colorado Springs with his buddy Rick, his wife Sheri, their children Tiffany, 15, and Jeffrey, 13; and their five cats, the dog, some hamsters and two geckos.