NEW YORK -- Here's a bittersweet story of a local Marine and the dog he met while deployed overseas.
CBS2's Cindy Hsu went to Staten Island on Thursday to learn more about their story of hope and resilience.
John Kurulgan is an FDNY firefighter and joined the Marine reserves at 17 right out of high school.
"All my life I always wanted these honorable jobs and to serve my country and, you know, being in the Marine Corps reserves and the FDNY, I get the best of both worlds," Kurulgan said.
Nearly two years ago, he was deployed to Tbilisi in the country of Georgia, where he and fellow Marines unofficially adopted several stray dogs.
"We've just been taking care of them. They've really grown on us, so they've become like part of our family. They boost our morale here," he said back in 2021.
One of their favorites, Remy, had a litter of terrier-mix puppies last year, and since they all grew so close, the Marines wanted to bring them home to the United States at the end of their deployment.
Kurulgan bonded with Peggy, the quietest of the pack.
He came home in September of last year and started working on the paperwork to bring Peggy home as surprise gift for his fiancé, but shortly after he returned to Staten Island his fiancé was killed in a car accident.
"It was very difficult and, luckily, one of the only things I was looking forward to was getting Peggy and seeing all the dogs be brought home. So it was one good thing out of a bunch of terrible situations," Kurulgan said.
But the reunions were delayed when the CDC announced a ban on bringing dogs into the country due to concerns over rabies. So for the last year, SPCA International's Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide has been working to get the dogs home to their service members, which it has been doing since 2008. Kurulgan kept in close contact with SPCAI as he waited.
"We kept in touch over the last year and I think this was one of the most heartwarming reunions of our entire program," SPCA International's Lori Kalef said.
A few weeks ago, Peggy finally made it to Staten Island. She is just over a year old now and starting a new life in Port Richmond with her big brother and sister, Bella and Bishop.
"She has been great. Like she sheds a lot, but other than that, she made my life better," Kurulgan said.
Peggy's mom, Remy, and all her siblings have been reunited with their Marines in the States, and the hope is that one day they'll all have a big reunion.
Operation Baghdad Pups has reunited more than 1,200 dogs and cats with their service members.
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