When Justin Lansford was deployed to Afghanistan back in 2012, he knew the work would be tough and the days would be long, but little could prepare him to face the reality that lay ahead.
While working as a paratrooper, Justin suffered a life-changing injury that would impact every area of his life moving forward – and also open the doors for him to meet his best friend, Gabe.
Speaking with ABC News, Justin said, “I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and we were in eastern Afghanistan in early 2012. We struck an IED and it flipped my truck completely.”
As a result of the explosion, Justin lost his left leg.
As part of his recovery and rehabilitation, Justin was paired with a 2-year-old Golden Retriever named Gabe, thanks to the Warrior Canine Connection.
Since their meeting in 2013, Justin and Gabe became inseparable, and the support dog was there for Justin as he went through recovery and learned to use a prosthetic leg. Gabe was even given his very own Facebook page where Justin could share about the dog’s life.
In 2015, Justin had plans to get married to his partner Carol Balmes but he wanted to honor Gabe in a special way. On his big day, Justin invited Gabe to be his best man!
Gabe was there for Justin as the two got married and went on to start a family.
In September of 2020, Gabe’s Facebook page announced that he would soon be a brother to a human baby! It was an exciting time for the family and Justin leaned heavily on Gabe for support.
Sadly, shorter after the family welcomed the new baby into their family, Gabe was diagnosed with “a very aggressive form of cancer.” The cancer ended up taking over the dog’s body in less than 6 weeks.
The couple wrote on Facebook, “He was there for us for every step of our lives from taking care of Justin, to helping him propose, the best man in our wedding and the best big brother to our new baby. We will miss him every minute of every day for the rest of our lives but he was SO loved and he knew that without a doubt up until his very last breath.”
It’s heartbreaking that Gabe crossed over the rainbow bridge, but he was an incredible service dog for 8 long years and he touched the lives of virtually everyone he met.
Through his Facebook page, Gabe inspired thousands of people and his legacy continues to live on.