Former Army Sgt. Josh Marino considered it an extreme honor to wear the uniform of the U.S. military.
But when his unit deployed to southwest Baghdad he found himself in the middle of a mortar attack that caused him to suffer a traumatic brain injury and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Upon his return to the barracks at Fort Riley in Kansas, Marino had a hard time coping with everyday life and found that his invisible wounds made it hard for people to believe in his pain.
After months of experiencing extreme anxiety and finding himself unable to focus or remember how to do everyday things, he made the decision to end his life.
“I took out one of my knives, I set it to the side, I wrote a letter up on my computer and set it there on the desk top,” he told Mutual Rescue in an emotional interview.
Then he went downstairs and walked out the back door of the barracks for one last smoke.
That’s when his life would change forever – just not in the way he had planned.
“I smoked a cigarette in the rain. It was gonna be my last one.”
Then he heard a little meow coming from the bushes.
“This little black and white kitten was walking out of the bushes. He just walked up and started rubbing up against my leg and let me pet him.”
The wounded warrior was overcome with emotion and burst into tears.
“And I stopped thinking about all my problems and I started thinking about all of his problems, what I could do to help him,” he said.
After that night he would go outside to visit the kitten every day with a packet of tuna.
Eventually, Marino just had to walk outside and start calling the kitten and he would recognize his voice and come running.
“This cat gave me something to look forward to everyday. He didn’t see anything wrong with me, he didn’t see any sort of flaws or imperfections. It felt safe.”
But one day Marino went outside and started calling and the kitten didn’t come. He was devastated that the creature he had come to love – and that taught him to accept love himself – was gone.
Then the unimaginable happened.
Marino, who had started taking a woman named Becky that he knew from high school, decided to go to an adoption event to get a cat of his own.
“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 and it’s that same little black and white cat.”
Marino couldn’t believe it – he was reunited with the cat that saved his life.
“I opened up that cage, and I pulled him out, and I held him tight.”
Marino signed the papers to adopt the cat right then and there – and he named him Scout.
Eventually, Marino married his girlfriend and moved in with her and her three cats – making one big, happy family.
“That little kitten made me realize that I wasn’t just a sack of damaged goods.”
Sadly, one day Marino found Scout ill and took him to the vet only to discover he had feline leukemia. A transfusion gave them a few extra weeks to spoil Scout before he passed away in Marino’s arms.
Marino was devastated again at the loss of the creature who changed the course of his life.
Eventually, he would go on to earn a Master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling and get a job with the Department of Veteran Affairs counseling disabled vets.
And he would never forget the kindness one tiny creature showed him in his most vulnerable moment.
Be sure to scroll down below to see the all-at-once heartwarming and heartbreaking video of Marino telling his and Scout’s story.
But make sure you have some tissues nearby.
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Source: Mutual Rescue via YouTube