Braying for Battle: The Long Love Affair Between Donkeys and the Military

Donkeys have long been under valued by humans. Horses look so majestic, so much taller – like supermodels when in comparison to their “cousins”, the donkey. However, when it comes to the long, difficult tasks that require endurance and intelligence, the donkey (or its American relative – the smaller donkey – called the burro) is the top choice. As for therapy donkeys, as mentioned in the article, – I have found the very adoptable HfH donkeys to be very good listeners to my troubles. There is wisdom in those soft big eyes. ~ HfH

From: The Modern Farmer
By: Sarah Baird

donkeys_in_battle“Let me warn you, our main story tonight is going to end with you getting extremely angry at a donkey,” comedian John Oliver told viewers in late October.

The donkey in question was not just any braying, four-legged friend. It was Smoke, the celebrated “veteran” donkey who hee-hawed his way into the hearts of a Fallujah-based Marine battalion in 2008 when he wandered into their camp from the Iraqi hillside. Smoke (whose name reflected his propensity to eat soldier’s cigarettes, both lit and unlit) soon became an unofficial mascot for the squadron, skirting the war zone ban on pets by becoming a certified therapy animal and providing endless entertainment for the soldiers and their children via Skype chats.

Eventually, those particularly taken with Smoke went to great lengths to arrange for his transport from Iraq to a therapy farm in Nebraska — a trip that cost more than $18,000 and trekked across more than 6,000 miles for the celebrity burro.

Herein lies Oliver’s beef with Smoke. Smoke’s entire visa process took a considerably shorter amount of time (read: months vs. years) than the hoops and hurdles required for Iraqi and Afghan translators attempting to enter the country as part of the Special Immigrant Visa program.

While Oliver’s outrage is well-placed and understandable, it’s not difficult to feel a little sorry that Smoke — who passed on to that great pasture in the sky in 2012 — had to take such heat for something far above his equine pay grade.

It’s also not a terribly surprising move on the part of Smoke’s higher-ups, given the military’s long, storied love affair with the humble donkey.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
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