A veteran had decided he was going to take his own life but wanted to have one last smoke first. He walked outside and lit up. As he enjoyed what he thought would be his last cigarette, he heard a rustling in the bushes beside him. When he realized what it was, it stopped him cold.
Army Sgt. Josh Marino suffered a traumatic brain injury in a mortar attack while serving in the Iraq war, and the incident brought the brave, young soldier to the lowest point of his life. In addition to the brain injury, Marino also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After returning from the battlefield to Fort Riley, Kansas, Marino felt helpless and hopeless. He no longer had a will to live. In mental anguish, he decided he was going to end it all. He wrote a note as he planned and prepared to take his own life.
“I did not want to deal with it anymore,” Marino recalled in a short film called Josh & Scout by Mutual Rescue. “I took out one of my knives,” he added. “I wrote a letter on my computer and went outside to smoke one last cigarette.”
It was raining as the soldier headed out for that one last smoke, but it’s a good thing he decided to go outside anyway. After hearing some rustling in the nearby bushes, Marino heard a distinct meow that grabbed his attention. After that one small sound, nothing would be the same.
Little did Marino know then, he was about to find a very unlikely reason to live. A tiny black kitten soon came out of the bushes and headed straight for the distressed veteran.
“He just walked up and started rubbing up against my leg and let me pet him, I broke down crying, burst into tears,” Marino admitted. “Maybe he knew there was something I couldn’t quite handle.”
With a new friend to worry about, Marino knew he could no longer commit suicide. “I stopped thinking about all my problems and started thinking about his problems and what I could do to help him,” Marino explained.
Marino decided then and there that he wouldn’t let his cuddly new buddy down and immediately began caring for the black kitten, taking his new pal plates of tuna every day.
As he and his new companion, who he named Scout, cared for one another, Marino’s will to live was fueled. He finally had something to look forward to every day. Life was looking up.
Then, one day, Scout suddenly stopped coming to visit. Although his heart was broken, the love he had shared with Scout gave him the will to keep moving forward.
Even though Scout was gone, the opportunity Marino had to care for the kitten helped him believe that not only could he care for someone but someone else could care for him too. So, he started dating and fell in love.
Marino told his new love about the impact Scout had on his life. Soon, he and his girlfriend decided it was a good time to consider adopting a cat.
The couple went to an “adopt-a-thon,” where they browsed the rows of crates together. Suddenly, a black and white paw reached out from a cage and smacked the soldier’s arm, grabbing his attention.
“All of a sudden a little black and white paw shoots out from a crate and starts smacking me in my left arm,” Marino recalled. To his utter amazement, it was his long lost buddy Scout.
“I opened up that cage, and I pulled him out, and I held him tight,” Marino said. Of course, he adopted Scout that day, and his life only got better from there.
After receiving a medical discharge from the Army, Marino married his girlfriend, and he moved to Pittsburg with his new wife and her three cats. Of course, Scout came along also. They were one big, happy family.
With so much love surrounding him, Marino started taking better care of himself both physically and mentally. He quit smoking, started eating right, exercising, and even went back to school.
After earning a Master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling, Marino got a job with the Department of Veteran Affairs counseling disabled vets, and he says he owes it all to Scout.
His best buddy has since passed away, but Josh Marino will never forget the difference one small black kitten made on his life. “In my opinion, real men like cats,” Marino joked, but Scout had a serious impact on his life.
“Even before he was my cat — before he even knew me that well — Scout saved my life,” Josh Marino said. “He put me on a different path. He gave me the confidence to try to come back from all the adversity that I was feeling.”