By Sandi Moynihan
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Missouri—When Kelly Gist adopted Bandit three-and-a-half years ago, she didn’t expect him to become a healer.
Sickly, underweight and suffering from a number of health issues before adoption, the great dane pup looked like he needed more help than he would ever be able to give.
But as Bandit grew stronger and healthier, and started accompanying Gist to her job at USO Fort Leonard Wood, Gist saw Bandit was more than an average rescue dog.
“We would bring him into the USO, and as he grew, his interactions with the troops were unbelievable and we realized he had something else to give [and decided to train him as a therapy dog],” said Gist, the USO Fort Leonard Wood center director.
Bandit the Therapy Dog sits on a bench after the USO of Missouri traveled laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 3.
Bandit visits hospital visitors.
Bandit visits with a military family.
Bandit comforts hospital visitors.
Bandit visits with a veteran.
A contingent from the USO of Missouri including Bandit the Therapy Dog mingles after laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 3.
Whether it’s visiting patients at the hospital, comforting troops at the Warrior Transition Unit or hanging out with military families at USO Fort Leonard Wood, Gist says Bandit is always ready to comfort those in need.
“If anyone can spend five minutes with him, even two, they’ll realize the difference he can make in someone’s day,” Gist said.
More from the USO
May 25, 2017
NBC's 'This Is Us' Cast Visits Service Members and Military Families on USO Tour at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
It was a morning to remember. A group of stars from NBC’s “This Is Us” – Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Sullivan – spent a morning visiting service members and their families at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst as part of a USO entertainment tour.
May 24, 2017
After Struggling to Find His Place in the World, Marine Finds Two Families – and His Place in Both
Deron Johnson didn't plan on joining the military, but he ended up a Marine. He also didn't anticipate becoming a fraternity brother at Texas A&M, but then came Theta Chi and its history of supporting the military - and the USO.
May 15, 2017
USO Operation Birthday Cake Brings the Party to Service Members in Japan
When Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey Lee received an urgent call to head to his work station one morning, he thought there was something seriously wrong, but there was no emergency. Instead, he walked into his own surprise birthday celebration, courtesy of his wife, USO Yokosuka and the Operation Birthday Cake Program.