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Toy pigs on mission of love in Ukraine

Oklahoma National Guardsman Austin Brackeen sent his daughter pictures of her toy pigs at various locations while on deployment in the Ukraine. (courtesy Austin Brackeen)

On the surface it looked like a traditional homecoming; loved ones eagerly waiting, a band playing patriotic tunes; a pat on the back from the commanding officer.

"You had a part in building a combat training center that will help train the Ukrainian army for decades to come," he said.

But beneath the surface there was something else going on. In military terms you'd call them special forces. So dedicated to their mission that when the soldiers marched into the room they were there, but hidden from plain sight. Only standing down once they'd made contact with their objective.

"Has glasses! Yeah, glasses. They're messed up too," said young Katen Brackeen, holding two very special pigs.

"The pigs were with me everywhere I went," said Austin Brackeen.

Katen had given Daddy pig and Peppa pig, whom she gave to Dad the day before he left for duty.

"She gave me the toys and so they've been on the journey with me since we left in May," he said.

And while Dad was busy doing his day job…

"I think the Ukrainian military is moving in the right direction," he said.

Daddy pig and Peppa pig were conducting a covert mission we'll call Operation Stay Connected.

"There'd be times when we were out training with the Ukrainians and I'd pull the pigs out and take a photo and they'd kind of start laughing and pointing at me and then they'd come and ask me and so I'd have to talk with the linguist and let them know what the pigs were about," he said.

They had a difficult mission and they knew it; stateside Mom was doing her best to explain things.

"Tell 'em for months over and over Daddy will be home soon," she said.

The pigs doubled down; sending hellos from castles, to field exercises, to picnics; even facing the risk of getting instantly turned into pork chops; but they did it all for love.

"Every time I send her the photos my wife would tell me how excited she was," he said.

Finally back home and safe, the pigs can finally relax. Home for the holidays; mission accomplished.

"It just made me feel good knowing that I was able to send her something that made her happy while I was gone," he said.

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