For one Bronze Star veteran of both WWII and the Korean War, the lure to save homeless pets has meant a house always full of whiskers and wet noses.
James, a retired Army veteran, served in both World World II and the Korean War. He worked his way up the ranks of the Army’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) and graduated from Fort Benning as a Second Lieutenant. He calls himself one of the “90-day wonders” – a term describing junior officers during World War II and, when numerous officers were moved quickly through OCS, often during other times of war.
Although trained as a ball turret or “belly” gunner, James was spared flying into combat. He was such an excellent trainee that the Army Air Corps instead tapped him to be a gunnery instructor. After his service in World War II, James returned to his home in upstate New York, where he graduated from college with a degree in mathematics. He later married, and had four sons and two daughters.
“I thought I had served my country well,” he says.
It turns out that the WWII veteran spoke too soon.
A return to service earns James a Bronze Star
Five years after his return, James was recalled. Between the end of WWII and his recall, James and his wife had two dogs, one of which their daughter adopted for them at a local shelter.
James was in the Army Reserves as an Infantry Lieutenant and assigned to serve as an infantry MP in the Republic of Korea. During this time, James attended military intelligence school and served as a counter intelligence officer in Korea with the 3rd infantry division. In 1952, Lt. James Forth was awarded the Bronze Star for his meritorious service, after which it was noted that his “sound knowledge of intelligence technique and his competent investigative background were invaluable assets in the furtherance of the counter-intelligence mission assigned to his unit.”
One of James’ most memorable military experiences came during the time he was stationed in Alaska, where he was sent to train the infantry. While there, he trained Alaskan Natives and became interested in their culture. One particular tribe inhabited an island off the coast of Kodiak, exiled there many years prior with a missionary from Boston who had taught them how to build boats and to fish.
To this day, the tribe exists independently from the United States. James is pretty sure that no one can get onto the island unless they marry into the tribe.
“Alaska was an unusual and interesting experience,” he says.
Hooked on pet adoption
It was during this time that James adopted a pet. Growing up he came from a big family – three sisters and two brothers – but they never had any animals in the house. While serving in Alaska, he adopted a Siberian Husky.
“Huskies are a tough breed because they love to be outside,” James says. “This dog would only stay inside about ten minutes before he went back out.”
For this WWII and Korean War veteran, adopting that Husky was the turning point; he was hooked.
Back home in New York, James had two beagles, but never any cats until he married his second wife: a neighbor who came into the marriage with a cat named Sneakers.
Sneakers became very attached to James and, when she passed away at 17-years old, James decided that he would never have a pet again. He was tired of getting attached to them, only to ultimately cope with the sadness of their passing.
As the story often goes, James’ decision was overturned rather quickly.
Three weeks after Sneakers died, James wandered into his local PetSmart “just to take a look.” Animal Protective Foundation, a local Pets for Patriots adoption partner, was featuring animals there who were in need of a permanent home. He saw a cat that had been there for six weeks, huddled in the far back corner of her kennel. Upon seeing James, she rolled right over and looked directly at him.
Once again, James was hooked and Mandy – a beautiful orange and white tiger cat – found her forever home.
Shelter cat rules the roost
At the time of her honorable adoption in October 2012, Mandy was a six-year old cat with unusual orange eyes. A mere six months later, she rules the roost.
The pair have even synced their daily routines.
When James goes to bed, Mandy goes to bed. When James gets up in the morning, Mandy joins him on the walk outside to get the paper. At his house, James has both an upper and lower deck. Depending on the weather, Mandy will choose on which deck she wants to sun herself.
James says with a laugh, “She rules the house.”
Good goes around
James likes the mission behind Pets for Patriots, and he plans to continue supporting them.
The organization provides opportunities for veterans, like James, and service members to honorably adopt dogs and cats most overlooked at shelters: adult, large breed dogs and special needs pets. In return for saving a last-chance pet, approved members receive various benefits to make pet ownership more affordable.
But James didn’t have financial savings on his mind when he saw Mandy. The war hero had a different kind of saving in mind: saving a life.
“Pets need attention,” he says, “they can’t exist by themselves. I think any group that pays attention to pets is good, and I think that the idea is good. Pets for Patriots is doing a good thing.”
How did your adopted pet choose you?