In the pitch black of night, back in 2009, Craig Grossi, part of an elite team of Marines, arrived in Sangin, Afghanistan. He hadn't really gone there to make friends, but as it turns out, that's precisely what he wound up doing.
Grossi and his team spent their first few days there, fighting off Taliban forces. The area where they were was remote. American troops hadn't been there in years, and the fighting was ferocious and dangerous.
Eventually, their attackers retreated, and Grossi and his team were finally able to get a feel for their surroundings.
One day, as he was checking things out, he ran across something he didn't expect to see at all; a little white dog that had tan spots and "a big goofy head and little legs," described Grossi.
In many war torn areas, stray dogs are not that uncommon a sight to see. Most of them travel in packs. They're scared and traumatized, and because of this they're usually not friendly with people.
However, this little dog wasn't like that at all. He was all alone, but that didn't seem to bother him at all. He would sniff out scraps of food and then take them into the bushes to eat them.
Something about this little mystery dog, captured Grossi's interest immediately. He was thoroughly impressed with him! "He was as confident as he was little," he recalled. "He's got it figured out,' I thought."
But the military has strict rules against approaching stray dogs, for everyone's safety.
"Up until that point, I'd never had a problem with the rule," said Grossi. Dogs have a long history of bringing comfort and support to soldiers in the midst of the horrors of war, and in recent years, their service has become more acknowledged and honored than ever before. Presidents have even issued declarations to ensure that they're safe.
Grossi felt as though there was something special about this dog, and he soon found himself breaking his first rule- but when there's a friendship involved, sometimes you just have to break a few.
After quite a few days of vicious combat, Marine Craig Grossi came across this dog wandering through the war-torn streets of Sangin, Afghanistan.
But this little dog was different than many of the stray dogs who won't have anything to do with humans and travel in packs, he was all by himself.
Grossi was extremely curious about the dog. He couldn't help it! And in spite of an official rule that prohibited approaching dogs, he took a piece of beef jerky and set out to make friends. He'd watched the dog for quite a while and knew that he didn't have an owner.
As he came closer to the dog, he could tell that the dog was indeed a stray; he was filthy and infested with bugs, too. He went closer carefully, aware that the dogs could be aggressive.
But this dog wasn't. Even though he was covered in bugs, and living in the midst of a battleground, the little guy wagged his tail very happily.
The dog graciously accepted Grossi's beef jerky offering, and a few tender scratches behind the ears.
Then, Grossi stood up and started walking away. "I feel a little poke at my ankle, I look down and there he is, following me," he said.
A fellow teammate saw the interaction and shouted, "Looks like you made a friend."
To Grossi, however, the shout sounded just like, "Looks like a Fred."
And just like that, the dog had been named: Fred.
It was also quite obvious that Fred had no intentions of going anywhere else.
At night, the Marines went around checking on the local civilian families, who were often the targets of the Taliban and Fred began tagging along.
Initially, the Marines were frightened that the dog would bark and give away their location, but it seemed as though Fred knew that they had to be very quiet, and he never made so much as a sound.
"I loved him from the first moment I met him," said Grossi. "But now all the other guys I was with really started to appreciate him."
In a very short time, Fred was a favorite at the Marine compound.
And then it happened! Grossi and his team were ordered to leave. They were to return to the main Marine base, and then they would be deployed to another part of the country.
Grossi was upset and confused. He wanted to bring Fred with him, but he couldn't think of a way to pull it off.
He asked Fred to give him a sign.
The following day, a helicopter landed to pick up the Marines. Grossi was protecting his face from all of the dust that was being kicked up by the rotor blades, when suddenly he felt something familiar: a little poke at his ankle.
And there at his feet was Fred, obviously freaked out by the noisy helicopter, but willing to face his fears.
With his unit's help (and a large duffel bag), the fact that Fred was there was kept a secret. And the stakes were high! If Grossi was caught with the dog, he could be put in jail, and Fred might be euthanized.
While at the base, Grossi met up with a few workers from the DHL shipping company, who told him that they would keep Fred safe, with them while Grossi was redeployed.
His original plan was to have Fred shipped back to the U.S. so that he could stay with his parents, however the paperwork couldn't be completed in time.
He'd hoped to return right away, but unfortunately he was hit with a rocket, which required a stay in the hospital.
As he was recovering, all he could think about was Fred.
Right after his release, Grossi went straight to DHL and began searching for Fred.
And then he saw him, playing soccer with a few of the DHL workers, who'd also fallen in love with Fred, just as Grossi had.
Grossi scheduled a veterinary exam and he completed all of the necessary paperwork needed to have Fred shipped to the States. But, he needed a crate.
Then, a stranger showed up, "I know about Fred," said the mysterious Marine, who just so happened to work with the K-9 unit, "and I want to help."
Grossi was then given a spare crate on the down-low, and Fred was on his way to America.
Grossi rejoined him, three months later.
In the summer of 2015, Grossi decided to quit his job with the government and he went back to school, but not before he hit the road on an eight-week cross-country trip. And naturally, Fred was right there by his side.
Nowadays, Grossi and Fred are always together, whether they're taking a nap on the couch...
or going exploring in the great outdoors.
When Grossi received his Masters from Georgetown University, Fred was right beside him, celebrating his success.
Grossi is also interested in writing again, and he's currently working on a book that's all about Fred's amazing rescue from Afghanistan.
And he's also been happy to share his story with everyone he meets while on his travels.
"Everywhere we went that summer I told this story in some version and people always loved different parts about it," he said. "I thought that was really cool."
If you'd like to see more about their story as well as the continuing adventures of Grossi and Fred you can visit their website or Instagram.
Now, please make sure to 'SHARE' this amazing story of friendship and devotion with family and friends on Facebook! Let's spread the smiles!