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Sgt. 1st Class Gary Sartin and wife Janadah with a gift basket with dog treats that Sartin will take to Iraq for a dog he has adopted.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Sgt. 1st Class Gary Sartin and wife Janadah with a gift basket with dog treats that Sartin will take to Iraq for a dog he has adopted.

Treats for
a dog of war

Danville soldier returning to
Iraq with food for adopted canine

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

A Danville soldier enjoying two weeks stateside received a welcome-home surprise Thursday from his family and about 40 students at Decatur High School's developmental program.

Sgt. 1st Class Gary D. Sartin, 37, of the U.S. Army Reserves returns to Baghdad next week to complete his second tour of duty in Iraq.

As Sartin, his wife, Janadah, and the students had cake decorated with Old Glory, a teacher's aide handed him a gift basket filled with snacks and a big bag of bones for his beloved, adopted Iraqi pet dog named Sar-tina.

"They named the dog after me," Sartin said, of his bunkmates.

"I love her to death. I'd bring her home if I could. She lives among the Iraqi people. She wants to be loved, but she's so scared."

Sartin said the dog comes to him for affection even if he has no food.

"She'll corkscrew her body, putting her front legs in the air but leave her hind legs on the ground in case she needs to run," Sartin said.

Whenever anyone asks what they could give him for his return trip, Sartin always asks for dog treats.

"Some days that mutt ... keeps me sane." Sartin said, as he choked back tears.

Gary E. and Sandra Sartin said their son knew he wanted to be a soldier when he was 6 years old.

"When he was 18, he woke me up at 1 a.m. and told me he was going to take his physical that day," Sartin's father said. "Now he rides as a turret gunner with the Army 1st Calvary Division in downtown Baghdad."

Janadah Sartin is a job coach with the developmental program and also works for the city's Parks and Recreation Department. She and her students help keep Decatur clean by picking up trash three days a week on Bank Street Northeast.

She's proud of her husband and wanted to give her students a chance to welcome him home while he's on leave.

Sartin said he has been in the military for 18 years and is a veteran of the U.S. invasion of Panama and Desert Storm. He works with the Iraqi National Police, a paramilitary organization, to develop a security force.

"We're showing them what right looks like," Sartin said. "When we work in the neighborhoods amongst the population, we're teaching them the way to treat civilian noncombatants."

Sartin said police working with civilians is a new concept to Iraqis.

"We try to teach military-minded people that they don't have to be strong-armed, and not always kicking down doors," Sartin said. "You get more information through public relations, shaking hands on the street and letting them know you work for the public. You get tips then when they see you're working with them to do something positive."

Sartin said he has completed about 41/2 months of his tour in Baghdad and has at least seven months left.

"I'm hoping I don't get tacked with another three months," he said. "I'm told active duty (soldiers) have been told they're staying 15 months. This is apples and oranges compared to Desert Storm. The combatants are harder to identify now."

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