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Trash To Treasure: Citizen Airmen, Rescue Dog Bring Joy to Community

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A.C. Losurdo

The proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” rings true for one Citizen Airman. Maj. C.W. Lemoine and his rescue husky, Luna, can often be found spreading cheer throughout their community.

When the new inspector general for the Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, isn’t investigating and resolving complaints for wing Airmen, he volunteers 40 to 50 hours a month working as a reserve deputy with the St. Tammany Parish Police Department patrolling the streets and answering calls for assistance. Luna, who he adopted in 2020, goes on patrol with him and is a therapy comfort canine visiting special needs children, patients in cancer centers and nursing homes, and attends community events as part of the department’s outreach program.

In December alone, the dynamic duo visited Abita Springs Elementary School, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Treatment Center, Pontchartrain Senior Health Care Center, and STARC West, an assisted living facility for adults with developmental disabilities, which Lemoine said is important to him because his brother has cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour care.

“She is a trash bag dog. Her entire litter was found in a dumpster behind a gas station in Arkansas,” said Lemoine, adding that Luna was rescued by Cajun Tales Adopters in December 2020. “I came across her ad online and decided to foster her.”

At the time, Lemoine, a Mandeville, Louisiana native, said his two dogs, ages 12 and 14, were not fans of the new puppy.

“They didn’t like her, so I thought it might be best to bring Luna back,” he said, adding that during the drive to the adoption center, Luna, a very quiet dog, cried the whole time. “The adopter said to give her more time, so I did, and as soon as we got back home, she stopped crying. Keeping her was the best decision I ever made.”

Lemoine’s oldest dog passed away from cancer in June, and a month later, he had to say goodbye to his other dog who succumbed to degenerative back disease.

“It was hard losing my boys, so Luna has been a light for me,” said Lemoine, who is not only a commercial airline pilot, but also operates his own YouTube channel with 400,000 followers, is an author of 12 books, and races cars. “She’s my adventure dog. She’s been to the Daytona races with me and even flown in a helicopter.”

It was Luna’s chill demeanor and exceptional people skills, which prompted Lemoine to do something positive with her to help others. He applied for and was approved for a $2,000 grant through the National Police Association. The grant funded a canine unit vehicle with a dog kennel in the back and training to certify Luna as a therapy comfort canine and Lemoine as her handler. Working with the public information officer, Lemoine and Luna represent the St. Tammany Parish Police Department as part of their community outreach.

His canine friend also goes on patrol with him, and she visits the other full-time officers, which he said helps them decompress from the stress of their jobs.

“It’s been awesome; people love her,” he said. “There are people out there who are experiencing rough times, and if you can make their day brighter it makes your day brighter too.”

The major knows a few things about setbacks and challenges. He began his Air Force Reserve career in 2006 and flew F-16 Fighting Falcons at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, before transferring to the U.S. Naval Air Station Air Reserve Base New Orleans in 2012 to get closer to home to help his father who had a deteriorating health condition. He flew VFA-204 Hornets from 2012 to 2016, but due to an illness of his own, he was temporarily suspended from flying. He transferred back to the Air Force Reserve in 2018 and flew T-38s as adversary air for the F-22 Raptors at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Hurricane Michael leveled the base in October 2018, and his unit was moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and closed in 2022, forcing Lemoine to look for a new job.

“When you are going through tough times and you are able to turn it around to help someone else, it helps you. Acts of service can sometimes save you,” he said. “It’s amazing for me to watch Luna interact with people and see how it changes their demeanor. You see the impact you have, and it makes it all worth it.”

Col. Shawn Mattingly, 403rd Wing deputy commander, who hired Lemoine, said he couldn’t think of a better person to fill such a critical position in the IG office.

“Major Lemoine brings an incredible background and unique skillset to the IGQ role,” he said. “He exudes a character of volunteerism and truly wants to help Airmen and his community.”

Lemoine is grateful for the opportunity to serve at the 403rd.

“As the IGQ, my goal is to help people and make them feel like they have a voice, that they are being heard, and that I care,” he said.

Whether as the IG, an airline pilot, a social media influencer, or a reserve deputy police officer, Lemoine is here to serve, and when he can, it will be with the help of his side-kick Luna.

(Losurdo is assigned to the 403rd Wing public affairs office.)