Student Veterans lead the charge as the Marist community rallies to help reunite a former Marine with his military working dog
Earlier this year, Matt Plumeri finished up his service in the Marine Corps and enrolled at Marist to study psychology and criminal justice, but the partner with whom he worked for years searching out dangerous explosives, including a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan, remains with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
His name is Gulliver, and he is a 9-year-old Vizsla, a military working dog, who was by Matt's side virtually every hour during their deployment, providing his detection skills as well as companionship that gave Matt and the fellow Marine in his unit a major morale boost.
To lend your support to "Gulliver's Travels," visit the "Bring Gulliver To NY for Retirement" page on GoFundMe.com. More information is also available on Facebook.
While deployed, Matt and Gulliver had the critical and dangerous assignment to lead Marines and other troops on patrol, choosing the best route based in part on Gulliver's detection skills. "We chose the path of most resistance," Matt says, explaining that the most difficult routes to traverse on foot were the ones least likely to be mined by Taliban fighters.
Marist junior Matt Plumeri with Gulliver, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
"Gulliver is a one of a kind dog," Matt says. "At night, when our unit would return from its missions, the infantrymen or “grunts” would gather around and shoot the breeze in a vain attempt to wash away the anxiety and other psychological byproducts of patrolling the most dangerous area of the most dangerous province in Afghanistan. Gulliver was no different than the other grunts that returned from outside the wire. As we all tried to unwind, Gulliver was always the main attraction. It was never long before he would steal the show.
Matt and Gulliver with British troops they supported in Afghanistan
"Gulliver offered each of us, if only for a short time, an escape. For a few moments we could forget the dark and dangerous place we were in, and he almost intuitively knew what each of us needed. This might be giving us some good laughs at his ritualistic dance that he would do in anticipation of his Kong being thrown or trying to get a fellow Marine to rub his belly. There is no doubt in my mind that Gulliver had an immeasurable benefit on the moral and mission effectiveness of the Marines in our unit and the service members of other units that we supported."
Looking forward to a reunion
With Gulliver set to be retired soon from service, military protocols ensure that Matt will have the chance to adopt him and bring him back to his parent's Hudson River valley home, where 5-acres, two other dogs, and Matt will make for a well-earned retirement.
But, as Matt waits for the call from California that will tell him that Gulliver is waiting for him, he knows that it's his responsibility to come up with the $3,000 it will take for him to travel west and retrieve the dog.
Knowing that's a lot of money for the typical college student to come up with on his own, Matt's fellow student veterans have made his cause their own.
Marist President Dennis J. Murray wearing the "Fox Company" T-shirt that the
Marist Student Veterans Organization (MSVO) is selling to support the
Gulliver's Travel fundraising campaign. From left, Owen Daly '05, Marine veteran and
advisor to MSVO, Marine veteran and MSVO President Britany Diesing '16,
President Murray, and Matt Plumeri '16.
Inspired by the title of Jonathan Swift's classic traveler's tale, the Marist Student Veteran's Organization (MSVO) launched a campaign to raise awareness about Matt and Gulliver and about the broader issue of military working dogs, along with the necessary funds to bring Gulliver to the Hudson River Valley.
Led by student veteran Britany Diesing, a first-year political science major, the MSVO is raising money through sale of special T-shirts and a GoFundMe.com page, and awareness of the effort through a Facebook page. The Marist community of students, alumni, faculty, and staff responded immediately, and on Nov. 7, just one week after being launched, the campaign reached its initial $3,000 goal. As support continues to come in from the Marist community and the College itself, all additional funds raised will be used for Gulliver's ongoing care, including veterinary and other costs.
A date hasn't been set for Gulliver's release, but Matt is hopeful that he will have the dog home in time for the holidays.