March 13 is K-9 Veterans Day: Retired military K-9 Tess reunited with Army vet

 Joe and Stephanie Steenbeke are happy now that their family is complete. Tess, Joe’s Military Working Dog, was reunited with him in 2019 after a long struggle to adopt her. Joe and Stephanie are also expecting the arrival of their newborn baby before the end of March. “Life is awesome,” Joe said.
Jamie Fleury
Staff Writer

National K-9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13 annually.

The day celebrates the work and sacrifices of Military Working Dogs (MWD).

United States Army veteran Joe Steenbeke, a former K-9 Handler, with the help of his wife, Stephanie, re-united with his MWD Tess this year after a long struggle to bring her home.

Steenbeke served in the Army for almost five years in 11 BRAVO - INFANTRY.

Steenbeke shared his story with the Pilot News Group, about his service in the Army, becoming a K-9 handler, working with Tess, returning to civilian life, fighting for Tess to come home, meeting Stephanie, starting a family and reuniting with Tess.

The Steenbeke’s will be welcoming their baby home by the end of this March or the beginning of April. Joe shared, “Life is awesome!”

A deployment to a hostile environment in Afghanistan was going to require K-9 handlers to detect explosives.

Orders were confirmed that Joe’s battalion would be deploying,

“Our battalion got orders to go there and we were told we had to have a certain amount of K-9 handlers," Steenbeke said. "So we had to do some competitions and testing. Me and a couple other guys came out on top. We were trained as TEDD handlers. Tactical Explosive Detection Dog. They actually used it as a guinea pig program to take an infantryman trained soldier and teach them how to handle the dogs, so that way when we were in Afghanistan and in gun fights, which was very often, we were trained to react to combat a little different since it was part of our main job.”

Read more about this in Wednesday's edition of the Pilot News. Call 574-936-3101 to subscribe.