Traumatized and inspired by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, young Justin Rollin wanted to support America and so decided to become a soldier. He joined the U.S. Army Rangers and, in 2006, was deployed to Samarra, Iraq, one of the scorching epicenters of the war.
In March 2007, Justin was killed in action.
The day before he was killed, he had rescued a stray puppy from the war-torn streets of Iraq. This picture was taken the day before he was killed.
Justin’s parents, Skip and Rhonda, made it their life’s mission to bring the puppy, named Hero, home to New Hampshire. This was their way of honoring their son because Hero was the last life he had saved. As Rhonda put it: “And she [the puppy] gave him the last bit of happiness, by the smiles on his face, when he was holding her, it’s just beautiful.”
With the help of Congressman Paul Hodes and the media, the Rollins eventually succeeded in bringing Hero home.
So ABC News’ Kimberly Launier went to Newport, N.H., to do a “20/20″ shoot at the Rollins’ home about Justin and Hero. This is Launier’s account:
“It was an overcast day in Newport, N.H.
I was filming soldier Justin Rollin’s parents Skip and Rhonda playing with their dog Hero, whose rescue from the Iraq War zone where Justin died was nothing short of a miracle.
Sometimes when Rhonda hugged Hero she would softly pet her face and coo, ‘Justin, are you in there?’ It was Rhonda’s gentle way of remembering their son and his last living connection to Hero. At one point, Hero wandered off and took a stroll in the backyard. All of a sudden, the clouds broke and a light began to solidify in a beam directly down on Hero — a kind of vertical halo.
As this dramatic ray of light was shining on Hero she turned to look at me, and it was all I could do to hold the camera steady and not drop it in astonishment. It was an unforgettable moment, and made me wonder if in fact Justin was in there. Then the light vanished.”
This is the picture the ABC camera captured. It is not a photoshop.
For more on the incredible story of Justin & Hero, watch Animal Planet’s series “Saved” on Monday nights: https://animal.discovery.com/tv/saved/
Watch the full story on “20/20” Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
H/t our beloved Miss May.