'She saved my life': Military service dog to be laid to rest with special honors

DENVER, N.C. — The story behind Sam Collins and his fur friend, Molly, began several years ago in Afghanistan.

Collins retired from the Navy but ended up back overseas in a defense contracting job, while Molly was serving as a cadaver dog in the Marine Corps.

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"I went to Afghanistan, and I saw Molly many times in the compound," said Collins.

He later learned that Molly's handler was killed and Molly was injured after getting shrapnel in her nose and abdomen.

"I kept on thinking about her, if she survived. Then when I found out she survived, I had to have her," Collins said.

Molly was retired, but left credited with finding 62 deceased U.S. service members, allowing them to be reunited with their families.

So, Sam adopted her.

"I thought you know I'll get this this dog and I can rehab her a little bit. I was totally wrong, she rehabbed me," Collins said.

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The wounds of war left Molly with post-traumatic stress disorder and Collins was also diagnosed with the disorder.

"She saved my life," said Collins. "A lot of people don’t realize, when they see these veterans walking around with their canines, how much their dog means to them."

Molly's health has declined recently, and this Sunday, she'll be put to sleep, but not without being recognized for her sacrifice.

The procession for Molly will begin in her Denver home and will end about 2 miles away with a special ceremony and burial honoring her service to the country.

Collins said everyone is welcome to attend.

"She’s done nothing but serve this country. Her military service makes mine look very, very small," said Collins. "If anybody deserves to be treated like a hero, it’s that dog right there."

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The ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at 1526 S. NC 16 Business Highway in Stanley.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office will lead the procession.

Collins said several Military groups will be there and will fold the flag and play taps.

Parking is on McKintosh Road.