By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 24, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 23, 2013) -- Five years after a Fort Rucker Soldier was killed in Afghanistan, the installation ensures that his legacy lives on by naming the post kennel after him.
The Fort Rucker Military Working Dog kennels will now be known as the Tabb Kennels in honor Sgt. 1st Class Donald T. Tabb, who served with the 6th Military Police Detachment as a military working dog handler, in a decision that was deemed by Fort Rucker officials as "the right thing to do."
"This was a no brainer," said Lisa Eichhorn, Fort Rucker public affairs officer. "Sergeant Tabb was really important to Fort Rucker and it was important to us that the Family knows that we still think about him, and that the MPs still highly regard his service."
"After all these years, it gives us great comfort to know that his work was appreciated," said William Smith, Tabb's brother. "This is a great honor and we're grateful to Fort Rucker for all the hard work that they've done to get it done."
Tabb volunteered for his second tour to Afghanistan and deployed in 2008. During his deployment, Tabb was in his vehicle with his military working dog, Bo, when they ran over an improvised explosive device. Despite the devastation, Bo survived the blast with only minor injuries because he was in his kennel at the time.
Capt. Brian Wheat, 6th MP det., said that the process to get the building dedicated to Tabb was well worth the wait, and that no one was more deserving of the honor. Wheat served with Tabb in 2005 as a junior NCO and said that he was someone that many looked up to.
"He was a role model and one of those NCOs that young Soldiers aspire to be," he said. "It was a long process and a great feeling of accomplishment. I'm glad that we could do this for him and his Family, and I'm glad that his Family was able to make it down to see it."
The dedication process was started several years ago when the idea was submitted to the Fort Rucker memorialization committee. The delayed process was reenergized upon Wheat's return to Fort Rucker in 2011 and the decision to dedicate the building was unanimous, said Eichhorn.
Tabb's Family didn't have to wait that long, however, to find comfort in a companion that remained by the sergeant's side until the end.
About six weeks after Tabb's death, it was decided that his Family would be allowed to adopt Bo, a decision that Smith said was bittersweet, but brought a lot of comfort to the Family.
"It's hard to explain, but it's like [Bo] took away some of the pain of losing [my brother], " he said. "He just mended that piece of it and it helped us. Bo played a strong part in comforting us, and everyone, even the children, sees Bo and thinks of Donald.
"Bo meant a lot to Donald," he continued. "He gravitated toward him and [Donald] always talked about him -- Bo is our connection to Donald. Donald was a very funny guy, and the only thing Bo can't do is joke."
The process to get Bo to Tabb's Family was not an easy one because in the eyes of the service, Bo still had a lot of service to give to his country, said Eichhorn.
"Bo was a very young dog [when this happened], he was only 2 years old, and training is very expensive and it takes a long time, so that had to be considered," she said. "When Bo was evaluated, it was determined that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with loud noises and large crowds.
"He still has issues with thunderstorms and has some lingering issues with any loud noises that might sound like an explosion," said Eichhorn. "That was taken into consideration and it was decided that even though he was young, it was OK to give him to the Family, and it was absolutely the right thing for Bo, the Tabb Family and Sergeant Tabb."