LARGO, Fla. — When it’s time for a wedding, the groom has to make a serious decision when it comes to picking his best man. For this groom, his best choice was his therapy dog, Gabe. His best friend.
Justin Lansford wed his longtime girlfriend, Carol Balmes, in a beautiful ceremony. Next to the groom sat Gabe, suited in a custom-made olive-drab vest adorned with all the medals that Justin had earned while serving in the U.S. Army.
Lansford is a young veteran who served as a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division. On April 23, 2012 he lost his leg when his truck hit an IED in Afghanistan.
“We struck an IED and it flipped my truck completely. I had bilaterally severed femurs which resulted in the amputation of my left leg,” Lansford told ABC News.
When Lansford returned, he was paired with a Golden Retriever named Gabe. Balmes had been working for the organization, Warrior Canine Connection, an organization that pairs therapy dogs with veterans to assist them as they live their daily lives with PTSD.
“First time Gabe met Justin, he was just wiggling and crying all over the place and acting like he had known Justin his whole life,” Carol told the Toronto Star.
The two have been inseparable.
The happy couple, and Gabe of course, live in Tampa where Lansford is currently taking classes and Balmes works at a veterinary clinic. With Gabe, the family couldn’t be happier.
“Anything that makes Justin feel anxious or uncomfortable, Gabe is always right there,” Balmes said. “It’s hard to have negative thoughts when you have this big smile looking at you just wanting to kiss you.”