Devie is an elderly Army veteran who served during the Cold War. When he and his wife fell in love with a little shelter dog they thought adopting him was out of reach financially – until Pets for Patriots made it happen.
Devie was 18 when he registered for the draft in 1954. He had grown up as the son of a farmer and dairy worker, and is a self-described Tennessee “country boy.” Devie did not expect to join the military.
“A good friend of mine, Paul, called me one day and he says, ‘Devie why don’t you join the National Guard?’” he says.
Paul was a staff sergeant in the Guard and encouraged Devie’s enlistment. It was not long before Devie found himself at Fort Benning in Georgia. While there he earned the nickname “Pete,” a shortened version of his last name.
The young enlistee learned how to repair Crypto machines, which were used to decipher coded messages.
”I was trained to change the codes in the system itself,” he says, “and they changed codes often because Russia and China and those places would figure out how to break the code.”
Pete’s first six years in the National Guard were largely uneventful when compared to the those that followed.
“When I got out of the National Guard, I had been out about a year, and the Cuban Missile Crisis came up,” he explains. “We thought we were going to be at war with Russia.”
The veteran was drafted from the inactive standby reserves and sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
“I got a letter in the mail stating ‘congratulations,’” he says.
The Cold War heats up
Pete was in the 204th Signal Battalion, which worked to set up communications for the 50th Airborne Division. He thought that he would be assigned to the Crypto machines at his new post, but on arrival, Pete learned that Fort Bragg did not have any for him to work on. He remembers his superiors saying:
“‘We don’t have a Crypto here. What are you going to do?’”
At the time priorities were focused on wartime military preparedness. Pete suspects his placement was a matter of manning open positions as quickly as possible.
“They needed a person to fill the spot in the battalion,” he says.
The Cold War was heating up with a clear mandate.
“We have to get to full strength before it happens,” says Pete, knowing that ‘it’ was the prospect of war.
Cuba, communism, and cable
Pete took on another important role despite not being able to use his skills with the code machines.
“Me and my group of men that I had under me basically ran around Fort Bragg, North Carolina installing TV,” he says.
While the country was on edge, Pete and his crew introduced television to the area surrounding the base. The importance of cable in the face of an imminent nuclear war appears trivial now. But it was a source of vital information about the unfolding crisis.
“People were really tickled to death to get cable TV,” he laughs.
Pete was about 1,000 miles away from Cuba, yet the young veteran was not as removed from danger as one might think. Everyone had to be ready at a moment’s notice for anything to happen.
“For about six weeks,” he says, “we sat on the edge of our box at Fort Bragg.”
Always the optimist, Pete remembers thinking he had it a little better than some in his battalion. His positive spirit gave him some relief from worrisome thoughts about a looming war, but anxiety among the battalion was palpable.
“We had to sit around and work out of our duffel bags,” Pete recalls. “All of us were just a nervous wreck for six weeks, wondering if we would have to go to Cuba or not.”
By December of 1961 Pete had fulfilled his eight-year obligation to the military and separated as an E5 staff sergeant. It was a time when very few people were even allowed to leave the service.
“They froze the whole military.”
Life goes on
Nuclear war seemed imminent just as Pete’s military commitment came to an end.
“We had warships, sailors, headed towards Cuba. And the Russians had their warships headed towards Cuba,” he explains. “For some reason, the Russians got within 50 and 60 miles of Cuba and they went back to Russia. That’s the only thing that stopped the war.”
Pete finally felt free to make a life for himself as a civilian. He worked in a variety of jobs and attended college through the Government Issue Bill (GI Bill).
“I was working days and going to school four nights a week, and had to do most of my studying and cramming on the weekends,” he says.
Pete appreciates that he was able to attend college and sees the military as a great way for any young person to do the same. However, he believes that service should be valued for more than just its personal utility.
“To be able to stand up for your country is an opportunity in itself.”
While Pete worked and went to school, he and his wife saved money to move out into the Tennessee country. They lived for there 20 years until they moved to a quiet suburb. The Army veteran credits his now late wife as the reason for their kids turning out so well.
Pete’s work life was varied and interesting. He ran a bread delivery route, labored at an aluminum processing plant, and delivered mail. Eventually he found a job in the sales department of a plumbing company, where he worked for 40 years until retiring.
Now, at 81, the elderly Army veteran’s working days are behind him.
“I do have some health problems,” he says. “You can’t be perfect all of your life.”
Pete now enjoys life with his second wife, Brenda.
A little help from your friends
Life is sweeter with the four-legged family members that that Brenda and Pete have to keep them company. Pete had grown up around animals and has always enjoyed them.
“[We] had dogs and cats, and goats, and cows, horses, chickens,” he says. “If you can name it, we had it.”
In July of 2016, Pete and Brenda lost one of their pets. It was particularly difficult for Brenda.
A few months later Pete spotted a little shelter dog on the news who bore a striking resemblance to their departed Yorkiepoo. His name was Napoleon and he was in need of a home. Pete called for his wife to see the little dog with curly black fur.
Brenda was struck by Napoleon’s appearance and suggested visiting the pet store where the dog was available for adoption.
Like many animal shelter and rescue organizations, Saving the Animals Together makes some of their adoptable pets available at local pet retailers in order to increase their visibility to the public.
The elderly Army veteran was apprehensive.
“Pete was like, ‘You don’t need another dog,’” Brenda shares.
The pair already had an aging dog and several cats at home. Yet Pete relented and the couple went to see the little dog, with whom they were instantly smitten. There was just one problem: a $200 adoption fee.
“We thought, we just really can’t afford it,” Brenda says. “We didn’t know what exactly we were going to do to pay for him.”
Pets for Patriots to the rescue
Unbeknownst to the couple at the time, Saving the Animals Together is a Pets for Patriots adoption partner. It discounts fees by 50% for veterans in our program who adopt program-eligible dogs and cats.
Napoleon qualified since he was six years old.
One of the shelter’s staff members asked Pete if he was a veteran and told them how Pets for Patriots could help. In addition to the halved adoption fee Pete would receive a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet essentials, discounted veterinary care, and a range of other cost savings.
Pete knew he would do anything to keep Napoleon. He applied to our program and adopted him almost immediately after being approved.
“I could see even from the ride home,” he recalls. “I could see right then and there, that any way we were going to get this dog, we were going to get this dog.”
The Army veteran has not had to worry about being able to afford the extra expense of Napoleon’s care. He credits our program for making it possible to save the little dog.
“We paid $100, but were given so much more,” Pete says. “You couldn’t ask for it to be any better. Pets for Patriots is doing a tremendous job.”
Napoleon’s transition into the family was so easy that it feels like it was destined to happen.
“From day one, it’s been like he’s known us all his life,” Pete says. “He’s just such a loving dog.”
Brenda believes that having such a friendly dog in the household makes everyone feel more joyful. And there is evidence to support the belief that dogs make us happy.
“We are both retired so most of the time we are at home, except for grocery shopping and doctor’s visits, different things,” she says, “so we are home with him and we just enjoy his company.”
Napoleon gets along well with the couple’s other dog and is kind to the cats. He even lets them under the bed with him to sleep at night. But Pete admits that the little pooch often appears as Brenda’s shadow.
“He just won’t get very far away from her,” he laughs. “If it hadn’t been for me she wouldn’t have even seen the dog.”
Pete knows he can give himself some credit for finding such a great friend for himself and Brenda. And he admits to receiving his share of affection.
“He loves me too, it’s just she comes first,” he says. “When she leaves here, you know where he gets? Right in my lap.”
It is clear that Napoleon has found the loving home he needed – and deserved.
“There’s no way in the world we would give him up,” says Pete, who dreams that more veterans follow his example. “And I hope people really adopt more of these animals because they need a home, really bad.”