U.S. Air Force Airman Kyle Smith’s motto was “through better or worse” – and that is exactly how he felt about his dog. Bodza the German shepherd was a former military dog who was paired with Smith in 2012 when he was deployed to Kyrgyzstan. When the dog retired, he was adopted by Kyle. When he was 11, he suffered from degenerative myelopathy, an incurable condition that affected his spinal cord.

When Kyle, who is now a military dog instructor, realized the pain Bodza was in, he decided to give his best friend a peaceful passing. He brought Kyle to the vet to euthanize him. It wasn’t easy, but it was for the best. Bodza spent his last moments surrounded by his loved ones, and his Air Force brothers who sent him off with honor.

“I held him in my arms the entire time,” Kyle said. “I’ve never cried that much my entire life… I just kept holding him, rubbing and kissing his head, telling him, ‘I’m going to miss you.'”

Kyle tried to hide this from his superiors, but when they found out, they came as soon as possible. And they made a surprising request.

“My boss immediately said, ‘Where’s your American flag? You should have one in your building. Find it for me now,'” Kyle recalled.

They draped the American flag over Bodza’s body to give him a proper hero’s passing.

“The worst thing you can do is not to recognize these dogs for what they are,” Kyle said. “For these guys to do this for a dog they’ve never even met… he got a good sendoff that day.”

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