Life of a soldier is something that is not easy to understand unless you have been in the exact same shoes yourself. Hundreds of men and women each year dedicate their life to protect the American people and in the process go through experiences that can sometimes break their spirit and change their lives forever.

Josh Marino is one such soldier who is proud to have served in the U.S. Military, however, after returning from his tour to Baghdad, Josh came back dispirited and uncertain of what life held next. Little did Josh know but he was amongst hundreds of other vets suffering with PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder.

A wound that can be seen is easy to sympathize with and heal, however, in Josh’s case, his mental state was hard for others to see and thus went unnoticed and unaided.

Josh remembers thinking back to those horrific days:

<“One day there was a mortar attack and mortar exploded no more than ten feet to my right. I suffered traumatic brain injury and suffered post traumatic stress disorder. A lot of us come home without realizing that we are bringing the war home with us. In a lot of cases, it’s an invisible wound that no one can see.”
When focusing on normal day to day life became harder and harder, Josh decided one night he had had enough:

“I took out one of my knives, set it to the side. I wrote a letter up on my computer and set it there on the desktop.”
Then Josh stepped outside in the rain and smoked his last cigarette. In that overwhelming moment of pain, fear, and hopelessness, something unusual caught his eye in the bushes nearby.

A little black kitten jumped out and approached Josh:

“He just walked up and started rubbing against my leg and let me pet him. I broke down crying, burst into tears. Maybe he knew there was something I couldn’t quite handle.”
The kitten provided just the right amount of distraction at the right time, and instead of thinking about how he was going to end his life, Josh started thinking of what he could do to help the stray get out of the rain. Since that night, Josh got in the habit of going in the backyard everyday and taking food for the kitten and even letting him nap on his lap.

Even though the kitten was still a stray, he now had a name, Scout. This small gesture ended up giving Josh a purpose and restored his faith in being able to help others. Eventually, the kitten even enabled him to be confident and mentally strong enough to be in a relationship.

While Josh’s life story had taken a turn for the better, a few months later, Scout was no where to be found. Despite of calling his name several times, Josh noticed that the cat was no where in his backyard. It certainly was a sad turn of events.

Josh couldn’t shake off the memories of Scout, and so a few more months later, he and his girlfriend headed to the adoption center at Fort Riley Stray Animal Shelter, hoping they could get a permanent pet to join their little family. What he saw there seemed like another miracle. Josh recalls:

“All of a sudden a little black and white paw shoots out from a crate and starts smacking me in my left arm. I looked inside, it is the same little black and white cat. I opened up that cage, and I pulled him out, and I held him tight.”
Scout and Josh were officially reunited against all odds! What followed next was a life where Josh exercised more, ate healthy, quit smoking, and even went back to school for a Masters degree in counseling which he used to find work helping other vets. He described it as a proud moment where he still served his country wearing a different uniform.

To the say least, Josh’s life was thriving. Even if it seemed silly to give a small feline all the credit, that’s what had made it all possible.

Here is the must watch video of Josh’s journey and his life saving cat, Scout!

After many years of happily being together with Scout, a sense of loss came over Josh once when Scout took ill and eventually passed away in Josh’s arms while on the car ride to the vet. For Josh, the memory, of Scout will forever be close to his heart.

“Even before he was my cat, even before he knew me that well, he saved my life!”
The morning after, when Josh claimed to have stepped outside to smoke his last cigarette, would have looked so different without Scout. Thanks to his little encounter with a stray kitten that night, Josh is able to live his life today helping others and finding happiness in his own life!