After serving her country for seven and a half years, Blue is enjoying her retirement in Georgia.

By Meghan Overdeep
June 11, 2020

On his first deployment to Afghanistan, Byung “BK” Kang’s platoon had numerous encounters with improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. So, on his second tour, the Marine volunteered to be a handler for an IED detection dog: a pup specially trained to sniff out explosives.

From 2011 to 2012 BK was partnered with a female black Lab named Blue. During that time, he told Today that Blue saved his life and the lives of his fellow soldiers so many times that he lost count.

“Since we knew Blue is effective, it was almost impossible for a squad or a platoon to go out without Blue,” he explained. “Sometimes we went on three patrols per day and by the time we’d get back we’re all exhausted because we’ve been walking miles and miles in over a hundred degrees of heat in Afghanistan. So, we did our best. Every chance, we tried to go out to possibly save the Marines and sailors.”

Overwhelmed with gratitude, one night in Afghanistan, BK made a promise to the dog.

“I told her, ‘What you’ve done for me and my guys over here in Afghanistan, we cannot pay back. So, I’m going to give you a good home where you can cuddle all day, not worrying about going to war and finding bombs.’”

After their tour ended, Blue was reassigned and BK lost track of her, but he never forgot his promise to her. In fact, one of his first conversations with his future wife, Wendy, was about his plan to adopt Blue when she retired from service.

Despite their best efforts, the couple lost track of Blue from 2012 to 2015. Wendy even wrote a letter to Georgia senator David Perdue in 2016, but the aging dog remained indispensable to the Marine Corps.

“I did everything in my power to make sure that we could get Blue home,” Wendy told Today. “After all the stories I’ve heard, I know for sure Blue is one of the reasons why BK is standing here with me and he’s alive.”

Eventually Wendy turned to a Facebook group for female Marines. With tens and thousands of members across the world, she had a feeling that someone knew where Blue was. And she was right. It was 2017 when they finally located her in Japan.  After serving her country for seven and a half years, Blue finally retired at the age of 10.

BK and Blue Retirement
Credit: Wendy Kang

The hero pup, now 11, has been with the Kang family in Lawrenceville, Georgia, since November 2018.  She’s living out her days with the couple’s two sons, five dogs and two cats.

A cancer scare for Blue earlier this year motivated the Kangs to submit an application to the 2020 American Humane Hero Dog Awards. Blue is now a semifinalist in the military dogs’ category of the competition.

“These working dogs, they will give up their life for us,” BK told Today. “So, we should be thankful to them and respect them and above all, trust the dog because dogs will not lie.”