Georgetown search and rescue dogs make sure every soldier returns home

On this Memorial Day weekend, Americans will remember those who died in the service of their country.

A dog detector service from Georgetown is helping to make sure all those who made the ultimate sacrifice will be able to come home.

The program is called No Soldier Left Behind.

Katherine Heselton, president of Merrill's Detector Dog Services, returned this week from a two month mission in Afghanistan, working in dangerous conditions.

"There is a lot of disruption going on over there. There's really a lot of incoming missiles, shots fired," said Heselton.

Heselton and her black lab, K9 Phederal, were among the very few units working in the search and recovery program.

Phederal is an HRD dog: human remains detection.

"As intel is gathered or they have good idea of where to start looking, you go on a mission and search for the soldier," said Heselton.

For security reasons, Heselton can't say much about their mission.

"You have to be so careful with what you show, where you are, all that."

But she can say Phederal is very good at his job, having been trained using actual human remains.

That could be tissue donated from a laboratory, or teeth that have been pulled by a dentist.

"We ask for them not washed, so there's still tissue from the mouth on them."

Heselton's HRD dogs have also been involved in missing persons cases on the Grand Strand, including the search for Brittanee Drexel.

"The dog that's in Afghanistan has done a water search on the Heather Elvis case, we've done others here," she said.

No Soldier Left Behind is a tough job for Phederal in a hot, dry, high-altitude environment.

It can be a sad job for the handlers, too, but very rewarding.

"It's a full experience," Heselton said. "You're watching the soldiers do what they do and they're giving their lives and to be able to bring closure to somebody's family, that's the ultimate honor."

Though there were missiles fired at their base constantly, Heselton says she always felt safe, knowing the military was there, protecting her and her dog.