MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines with 1st Law
Enforcement Battalion and local community members gathered at the
Military Working Dog Kennel here to witness a man adopt his late
son's K-9 partner.
Salvador Diaz, father of Staff Sgt.
Christopher Diaz, a dog handler with III Marine Expeditionary Force,
adopted a military working dog here, June 7, 2014.
Sgt. Jonathan Overland, a dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement
Battalion, hands Dino off to the Diaz family during a retirement and
adoption ceremony at a kennel aboard Marine Corps Base Camp
Pendleton, Calif., June 7, 2014. The Diaz family waited 3 years
since the passing of their son, Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, a dog
handler with III Marine Expeditionary Force, to adopt Dino, their
son's military working dog.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angel Serna)
Salvador, from El Paso, Texas, said he wanted to adopt
his son's dog, Dino, after Chris died in Helmand Province,
Chris didn't have Dino with him when he was killed on a patrol,
said Sgt. Jonathan Overland, a dog handler with 1st LEB who worked
The patrol's mission was to raid a building.
Over the course of the raid, one of the operators was incapacitated.
Without hesitation, Diaz ran into the building to save his fellow
warrior, but the building was booby trapped. He was killed by an
improvised explosive device as he exited the building.
death was untimely, but he impacted the lives of others with his
charisma, said Overland.
“He was a leader,” Overland said.
“He was a strong, awesome person and an amazing mentor. I can
confidently say he was someone you would want to follow any day.”
After Chris' death, Dino was devastated and it was difficult for
him to train with other dog handlers, Overland said.
first got back to Twentynine Palms, I think it clicked in his head
that Staff Sgt. Diaz wasn't coming back and all I can remember
hearing about was that no one could pull him. He became aggressive
and didn't like anybody because they weren't Staff Sgt. Diaz,”
The relationship between Chris and Dino was
unlike most relationships dog handlers share with their animals.
Chris was Dino's first and only partner, said Salvador.
had another dog named Waldo, before Dino, and the relationship
between Waldo and Chris was the same as any other dog handler,”
Salvador said. “I don't know if it was the training that he had in
Israel where he spent so long with him, but there was just something
Chris and Dino shared.”
Dino existed in Chris' conversations
outside of work, at the kitchen table and over the phone, said
Salvador. Dino was a part of Chris' life and he truly cared about
“When he would talk about Dino, or explain what he was
doing with him, his face would light up,” said Salvador. “It was
like when you have a passion for something whether it has to do with
cars or motorcycles or even cooking, your face lights up with joy
whenever you talk about it.”
Dino is a symbol for the Diaz
family. He brings a sense of comfort and closure to the family, said
“Dino means love,” said Salvador. “The reason I say
love is because Dino has something of our son, just as Chris had
something of him. The first time I met Dino two weeks ago, I stared
at him and I actually saw Chris. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's
the mind at work, but I saw my son.”
After meeting Dino,
Salvador said he was happy to have the chance to be a part of the
newly retired working dog's life.
“Dino will be a part of the
family,” Diaz said. “He's going to be everywhere with us and be
included in everything because it will be almost like having Chris
The Diaz family said they like to think Chris lives
on through Dino. Salvador said Staff Sgt. Diaz died a hero and will
never be forgotten by his friends, family, and especially his best
By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Angel Serna
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