Life

Wounded Army Veteran Makes His Service Dog The Best Man At His Wedding

U.S. Army veteran, Justin Lansford, couldn’t find a better best man for his wedding than man’s best friend. Lansford, who married his longtime girlfriend Carol Balmes over the weekend, made his service dog, Gabe, the best man at his wedding.

Being best man might sound difficult for your average Golden Retriever, but not for this one. Gabe has been standing by Lansford’s side since 2012, when Lansford returned from Afghanistan with a severe injury.

“I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and we were in eastern Afghanistan in early 2012,” he told ABC News. “We struck an IED and it flipped my truck completely. I had bilaterally severed femurs which resulted in the amputation of my left leg.”

Lansford was wheel-chair bound until Warrior Canine Connection paired him with Gabe.

“The less I use my wheelchair, the more I need his help in smaller tasks and the more he is there,” Lansford, told ABC. “It has been very comforting to know that.”

Gabe helps Lansford with daily tasks like fetching items to help Lansford put on his prosthetic leg and helping him stand up from the ground whenever he falls, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s why serving as the best man and the ringbearer in Lansford’s wedding proved a pretty simple task for the amazing retriever. In fact, Gabe also helped Lansford propose to Balmes on Veteran’s Day in 2014.

Brad Hall, the photographer for the ceremony, which took place in Largo, Florida, said Gabe was even one of the easiest bridal party members that he has ever photographed. (I mean, look at that coat.)

“[Gabe] was easy, quite frankly, a lot easier than we typically see with groomsmen at most weddings,” Hall told USA Today Network.

 

Gabe has been ready to help and befriend soldiers returning from overseas since he was a pup. U.S. Army veteran Spencer Milo told ABC News he was on a dismount patrol on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when he saw what looked like a roughly 15-year-old suicide bomber.

“I just remember a big, loud noise, a big flash. And I remember landing,” Milo told ABC.

The incident caused Milo to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Milo’s doctors suggested that he start working with Gabe, who was then a puppy and a candidate for the Warrior Canine Connection.

“It was really hard to go back into public without being so on edge that it made others uncomfortable,” Milo told ABC. “I’d sweat profusely and I’d be incredible grumpy.”

But, with Gabe at his side, Milo started being able to go complete simple tasks like riding public transit and going to the grocery store. Milo said that eventually, he started feeling like himself again.

“We went to a grocery store and by the time I got to the grocery store, I remember sitting there and talking to a couple people that I was with, like, ‘I just did that,'” Milo told ABC. “My family, my wife started seeing me again, and that’s incredible. You can’t put that into words. … I owe everything to Gabe. I would jump in front of a bus for Gabe, and I know he would do the same for me. And I know he’d do the same for Justin.”

Photo by Counselman Collection

This story originally appeared on Simplemost.