TUALATIN, Ore. (KOIN) — Michael Bocci is a Marine sergeant who did 3 tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Most recently, he was stationed in Germany. A few weeks ago he moved back to his hometown of Tualatin with his children.
But on the 4th of July — the second anniversary of his wife’s death in childbirth — the helicopter pilot lost his bomb-sniffing Springer Spaniel who saved his life twice.
That night he was on his way to bed when he let his dog – Ikaika, a USMC sergeant, too — outside to “do his business.”
But the fireworks in a neighbor’s yard scared the dog.
“He heard the fireworks and he was trained to go where a lot of lights are,” Bocci told KOIN 6 News. “Then he realized, ‘Oh, no, that’s not good for me.’ And then he went off I-5 and got killed.”
Ikaika was his companion dog who helped with his PTSD and helped nurse Bocci through a stroke he suffered about a year ago.
“He meant the world to me, ma’am,” he said. “He slept right next to me. He kept stealing my blanket from me.”
Michael Bocci and his service dog
Bocci got the Springer Spaniel about 4 years ago through a friend in Germany, where he was stationed at the time. Ikaika did 2 tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“He sniffed bombs,” Bocci said. “He was wonderful at it. He saved my life twice.”
The 34-year-old admitted the last 2 years have been tough. “My wife died giving birth to my 2-year-old on the 4th of July,” he said. “I’ve been struggling ever since.”
A year ago he suffered a stroke and he’s been trying to recover. “I’m getting there.”
“I lost my wife on the Fourth, lost my dog on the Fourth two years later. So it’s pretty, it’s tough.”
The pastor helps
Mike Ruptak is the chaplain for the Tualatin Police Department and the pastor at Hall Boulevard Baptist Church. When he heard about Bocci’s situation, he rallied the church to help.
A donation account for Michael Bocci has been established at all US Bank branches
But more help is needed.
“The whole picture is he’s holding it together,” Ruptak told KOIN 6 News. “But I think he’s holding it together with duct tape and bailing wire.”
Bocci needs a car and a job, and Ruptak said the congregation is wrapping their arms around him.
“His years of faithful service to the military, everything he saw and went through there and then to crown it off with the death of his wife — and two years later on the same anniversary, the death of his dog,” Ruptak said.
“Whatever we’re able to do, we’re going to do.”
Bocci and his children, ages 6 and 2, are together in Tualatin. He said he’d like another dog soon — “a Springer would be wonderful” — but doesn’t have the strength to look for one himself.
He’s proud of his service — from 2004 until June 16, 2016 — despite all the hardships and heartache he’s faced. “I’d do it over and over again. If they call me, I’d be in.”
Still, he’s struggling to get his life moving forward. He has a flag the Marines gave him to honor Ikaika and a box with his ashes
But, he said, it’s “sad for a Marine who served 4 tours has to struggle to put food on the table.”
Filed under: Clackamas County, Editor’s Pick, Health, Human Interest, Oregon, Top Video