Cardboard Tim Goes to the Dogs

Tim Loonam with Moon Pie in Iraq
Major Tim Loonam, DVM, enjoys a snack break while deployed to Iraq. While he’s all smiles here, his deployment presented difficult challenges to his skill as a veterinarian, his military leadership, and his faith.

Farewell to Football? makes an unusual move for a memoir. Almost an entire chapter relates the experiences of someone other than your humble narrator/author. “The Adventures of Cardboard Tim in Territory Held Largely by the Devil,” Chapter 10, relates the war-time experiences of Major Tim Loonam, DVM, who went to Iraq in  2004 to support the Military Working Dogs (MWD) that the American military was deploying in combat for the first time since the Vietnam War. Tim’s role in the war was so unique, and his approach to his deployment so inspiring to me, that I wanted to provide enough space for his story to unfold in detail, so I stepped aside.

Tim, who was the medical-services officer in the 1-17th Infantry in Korea in 1985 when I was the scout-platoon leader, appears in at least two other books about the second Iraq War.

Marine Mike Dowling describes a health-inspection visit from “the Army veterinarian” (Tim goes unnamed, but he is included in a picture) in his book Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog. Those bomb-sniffing MWD that Tim worked to keep healthy saved a lot of military and civilian lives as the war transitioned from a conventional  fight to a counterinsurgency operation.

In her book Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital, Navy psychologist Heidi Squier Kraft presents a poignant anecdote of Major Loonam helping a Marine recover from depression brought on by the loss of one of her friends in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) bombing. Tim did his part by helping clear a dog to be sent to the States to await the Marine’s return–typical of Tim’s compassionate and loving character, and another life saved or improved through Tim’s “ministry of dogs.”

Tim Loonam with Heidi Kraft at Alpha Surgical Company in Iraq
Dr. Heidi Kraft and Dr. Tim Loonam with a Military Working Dog (MWD) and his handler at Alpha Surgical Company in Iraq. Dr. Kraft told me about how Tim served as an inspiration to her and many others at that hospital unit–when he was there (he traveled almost constantly to support the dispersed MWD teams).

Tim Loonam had prepared himself to live like a saint in the desert, even as he recognized that the war-zone would be “territory held largely by the devil” (a phrase I borrow from Georgia Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor). In his kit, Tim packed his Bible, from which at a minimum he read a Proverb a day, and the daily devotional book by Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. In my book, I try to provide the reader some sense of how Tim prayed to find and do God’s work in a hellish place, and also to narrate his harrowing encounter with a figure of “pure evil.” In his chapter, Tim recognizes that he may have missed a few evangelical opportunities in Iraq, but I recognize his powerful ministry to me as friend and role-model.

So, why is he Cardboard Tim?

Cardboard Tim with Tim
When Major Tim Loonam, Army veterinarian, deployed to the Iraq War in 2004, his friends had a photo blown up life-size. They took Cardboard Tim to all the places the DawgDoc would have enjoyed had he not been facing a test of his faith in the desert. I took this picture of both Tims when I visited Athens, GA in 2013, for the South Carolina at Georgia SEC football game (Tim’s son, Jack, was a walk-on tight end for the Bulldogs).

Read more about Tim Loonam, his family, his connection to Georgia Bulldog football, and my friendship with him in Farewell to Football? An American Fan’s Examination of Conscience, available in paperback through the Amazon and Barnes & Noble online catalogues, and in Kindle format at Amazon.com.

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