Veteran Justin Lansford and his girlfriend Carol Balmes decided it was time for them to tie the knot. As they were planning for the big day, Lansford was yet to decide on who should be his best man at the wedding. His only requirement: it must be his best friend.
But, who else was his best friend other than his service dog, Gabe!
Gabe and Lansford first met in 2012. Lansford was a soldier deployed in Afghanistan, when he lost his leg to an IED, a bomb made by unauthorized forces. He was forced to return back to the United States and recover.
“I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and we were in eastern Afghanistan in early 2012,” Lansford told ABC News. “We struck an IED and it flipped my truck completely. I had bilaterally severed femurs, which resulted in the amputation of my left leg.”
Lansford was also struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, which pushed him to reach out to Warrior Canine Connections to have a service dog to help him cope.
He was paired with then two-year old Gabe, and their brief encounter became the beginning of a wonderful friendship and family.
“He helps me with one thing to the next. I can use him as a stable surface to lean on, as I get to and from the ground,” Lansford added. “If I fall, he’ll come up running next to me and I can use him to push off of to get up off the ground.”
Lansford proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Balmes, in 2014, and his best friend Gabe was there to help him. Balmes was ecstatic and said ‘yes’!
The couple got married in 2015 in Largo, Florida. Gabe had several parts in the wedding: he walked both of them down the aisle, became the best man, and even the ring bearer!
After four years of marriage, Gabe is still very much part of the happy family, while his dad Lansford started fostering more pups for the Warrior Canine Connections.
Lansford and Gabe train the puppies before going to their forever homes. Gabe got close to one pup named PJ, whose family moved in front of Lansford’s house.
Let’s just say there wasn’t any time that Gabe and PJ missed play time!