Separated in combat and stolen as a Taliban war trophy, somehow Sarbi the Australian defence dog survived and went on to inspire millions with her story of courage and mateship.
Sarbi’s former handler, Warrant Officer David Simpson, keeps her legacy alive through his work supporting veterans with life beyond defence, building a secure financial future for their families at Axon Property Group. He will join a vigil for his former four-legged colleague on National Military Working Dog Day on 7 June.
“I think about Sarbi every day, and this year, I want to honour and remember the sacrifices made by all military working dogs and the essential role they play in keeping our soldiers safe,” WO Simpson said
“While serving, there are limited things that bring you joy, Sarbi being one of them, my mates were another."
WO Simpson and Sarbi had gone through extensive training to prepare her for combat and to ensure that Sarbi 'stayed glued to his side' but, after a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) exploded within metres of where they were on patrol, it severed the lead that had Sarbi attached to WO Simpson's body armour.
“Sarbi and I were on patrol one morning, travelling in the US Humvees, when we were ambushed,” he said.
Many of the Australian soldiers had been injured, forcing them to free themselves from the ambush, tragically having to leave Sarbi behind, something that WO Simpson recalls as being one of the hardest things he’s had to do.
“The moment I realised that we had to leave Sarbi behind was absolutely gut wrenching, but I also knew that her training and fierce loyalty would help her find her way back to me,” he said.
After 14 months of being kept as a war trophy by the Taliban, Australia’s canine hero was discovered by a soldier in a village and brought back to Australia, where she spent the remainder of her years living as a household pet with WO Simpson and his family.
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Sarbi received the highest award for animal bravery, the RSPCA’s Purple Cross, upon her return. WO Simpson said the decorated war dog inspired him to give back to the defence community.
Since completing his service, WO Simpson has dedicated his life to serving the Defence community through his role as Property Specialist at Axon Property Group, a veteran-owned and operated business that assists members of the Defence community to secure their financial future through property.
“After leaving the army, I was lucky to find a role at the Axon Property Group where I could work alongside fellow veterans who, not only understand what I’ve been through, but provide a sense of community and belonging," WO Simpson said.
In honour of National Military Working Dog Day, he reflected on the few years he served alongside Sarbi, and the pivotal role she played in making his transition out of military life so smooth.
“It’s a rewarding role, supporting soldiers and returned service people invest their property entitlements and build a secured financial future outside the force," WO Simpson said.
“It can be extremely challenging transitioning out of defence and if it wasn’t for Sarbi and Axon, I wouldn’t have been able to find my ‘soft landing’.
“I’m attending the National Military Dog Working Day Ceremony to honour Sarbi and all the other dogs who served to reflect on how much she taught me. I can’t think of a better way to honour her than to apply her strong sense of loyalty and comradeship to my own life, my family and my role at Axon.”
The National Military Working Dog Day Ceremony takes place on Monday, 7 June at the RSPCA Campus – 139 Wacol Station Road, Wacol.
Journalist – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.