Photo Information

A killed in action memorial bracelet, belonging to Salvador Diaz Jr., Father of Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, a dog handler with III Marine Expeditionary Force, is staged during a retirement and adoption ceremony at a kennel aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 7, 2014. Staff Sgt. Diaz triggered an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province, Afghanistan while trying to save another Marine’s life. Since the passing of their son, the Diaz family has waited 3 years to adopt Dino, their son’s military working dog.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Angel Serna

‘Man’s best friend’ is adopted by fallen Marine’s family

11 Jun 2014 | Lance Cpl. Angel Serna

Marines with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion and local community members gathered at the Military Working Dog Kennel here to witness a man adopt his late son’s K-9 partner.

Salvador Diaz, father of Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, a dog handler with III Marine Expeditionary Force, adopted a military working dog here, June 7, 2014.

Salvador, from El Paso, Texas, said he wanted to adopt his son’s dog, Dino, after Chris died in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Chris didn’t have Dino with him when he was killed on a patrol, said Sgt. Jonathan Overland, a dog handler with 1st LEB who worked alongside Dino.

The patrol’s mission was to raid a building. Over the course of the raid, one of the operators was incapacitated. Without hesitation, Diaz ran into the building to save his fellow warrior, but the building was booby trapped. He was killed by an improvised explosive device as he exited the building.

Chris’ death was untimely, but he impacted the lives of others with his charisma, said Overland.

“He was a leader,” Overland said. “He was a strong, awesome person and an amazing mentor. I can confidently say he was someone you would want to follow any day.”

After Chris’ death, Dino was devastated and it was difficult for him to train with other dog handlers, Overland said.

“When he first got back to Twentynine Palms, I think it clicked in his head that Staff Sgt. Diaz wasn’t coming back and all I can remember hearing about was that no one could pull him. He became aggressive and didn’t like anybody because they weren’t Staff Sgt. Diaz,” Overland said.

The relationship between Chris and Dino was unlike most relationships dog handlers share with their animals. Chris was Dino’s first and only partner, said Salvador. 

“He had another dog named Waldo, before Dino, and the relationship between Waldo and Chris was the same as any other dog handler,” Salvador said. “I don’t know if it was the training that he had in Israel where he spent so long with him, but there was just something Chris and Dino shared.”

Dino existed in Chris’ conversations outside of work, at the kitchen table and over the phone, said Salvador. Dino was a part of Chris’ life and he truly cared about him.
“When he would talk about Dino, or explain what he was doing with him, his face would light up,” said Salvador. “It was like when you have a passion for something whether it has to do with cars or motorcycles or even cooking, your face lights up with joy whenever you talk about it.”

Dino is a symbol for the Diaz family. He brings a sense of comfort and closure to the family, said Salvador.

“Dino means love,” said Salvador. “The reason I say love is because Dino has something of our son, just as Chris had something of him. The first time I met Dino two weeks ago, I stared at him and I actually saw Chris. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the mind at work, but I saw my son.”

After meeting Dino, Salvador said he was happy to have the chance to be a part of the newly retired working dog’s life.

“Dino will be a part of the family,” Diaz said. “He’s going to be everywhere with us and be included in everything because it will be almost like having Chris again.”

The Diaz family said they like to think Chris lives on through Dino. Salvador said Staff Sgt. Diaz died a hero and will never be forgotten by his friends, family, and especially his best friend, Dino.