If you were a soldier in the Vietnam war, would you spend your money and your time setting captive birds free? If you were serving in Afghanistan, would you stop to save a bird that was shot? Pete Dubacher did when he was in service in the Vietnam era. Two US servicemen in Afghanistan did the same just a few weeks ago. Now they need your help.
For 35 years Pete has been running Berkshire Bird Paradise, a sanctuary for more than 1200 birds, many of which are permanently disabled. His residents include 18 disabled eagles, which breed and raise young that are later released into the wild. When Pete was in service in Panama, he saw caged birds caught from the rainforest for sale in the markets. Feeling bad for both the people and the birds, he chose a solution that's typical of him. He bought the birds and set them free.
Because of that experience, he very much wants to help two young servicemen stationed in Afghanistan who rescued an eagle after it was shot. In spite of difficult conditions, these young men have continued to care for the bird, building it a cage, feeding it, doing whatever they can to keep it alive. But it's clear that the bird will never fly again, and they're worried that it won't survive beyond their deployment. They asked Pete if he'd take it in, and help them get it to the US.
Yes, and yes. Of course he will. However, that's where the hard part begins. Pete knows how difficult it can be to bring a bird into the US, so he called me, asking for my help. I'm author of the book Feathers of Hope, which is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds, and I'm a long-time admirer of his work. Knowing that we'd need political and media support, I called Senator Schumer's office, and found a young woman named Caroline who is very eager to expedite this. She contacted Federal Fish and Wildlife, and was able to find some nice people there who are also interested.
As it turns out the bird is a Steppe eagle, more easily brought into the US than a golden or bald eagle, and we're trying to get through the paperwork and permits as quickly as possible, because the bird is beginning to develop some problems and we don't want it to die of red tape.
As we wait, we're seeking help in two different ways. Send emails to Fish and Wildlife in support of Eagle Mitch, wounded in the war and waiting to come home. Encourage them in their fine work of speeding this along. Or email the White House to do the same. Or if you know anyone in the media who would be interested in this story, let them know as well, because media coverage will grease the wheels of transport. And speaking of transport, we might need that as well. . . .
In my book I talk about how we long to save what's wild because that also honors what is wild and free in ourselves. Even to try to save a bird is, in many ways, to save your soul. I want to honor what's wild and free in these boys, and in this eagle. The young men did a most admirable, compassionate, and human thing in a difficult situation. My goal is to see that they get exactly what they want as their reward.