Walorski Honors Veteran Joe Steenbeke as “Hoosier Hero” After Reunion with Canine Partner Tess
Military Working Dog Adopted by Former Handler Nearly Five Years After Deployment Ended
MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) recently honored Culver, Ind., veteran Joseph Steenbeke as a “Hoosier Hero” and welcomed home Tess, the bomb-sniffing dog Joe was partnered with in Afghanistan.
Joe, who was a Tactical Explosive Device Dog (TEDD) handler during his service in the U.S. Army, last month officially adopted Tess, the Belgian Malinois who was his partner during nearly a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. Tess has served with the Connecticut National Guard since their deployment ended in early 2013.
After Joe’s wife Stephanie contacted the congresswoman’s office in 2018 seeking help adopting Tess, Walorski worked with the Steenbekes, the U.S. military, and the Connecticut National Guard to ensure her former handler would be first in line once Tess was retired from service.
Walorski entered a statement into the Congressional Record honoring Joe’s service and recognizing the friendship between Joe and Tess. The text of her statement is below.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the bravery, service, and friendship of Hoosier veteran Joseph Steenbeke and his beloved canine partner Tess.
“Joe and Tess served side-by-side to defend our freedom, and they are true American heroes. Joe served in the U.S. Army, working as a Tactical Explosive Detection Dog, or TEDD, handler. From May 2012 to February 2013, he was deployed to Afghanistan with Tess, a Belgian Malinois trained to detect IEDs, at his side.
“Joe served his country with courage and strength. But as Joe’s wife Stephanie put it: “He risked his life fighting beside an even stronger force, Tess.” She was Joe’s partner, his protector, and his best friend. When their service together ended, Joe returned home to Indiana, and Tess moved on to her next mission for the Connecticut National Guard. But their bond remained strong.
“Over the next five years, Joe never stopped thinking about Tess and never gave up on the idea of adopting her. Like so many of our brave veterans do when they return from war, Joe struggled with PTSD. But his love for Tess and his determination to bring her home gave him strength and hope. And that’s when Stephanie wrote me a letter asking to help them complete this mission.
“It was a great honor to work with Joe and Stephanie, the U.S. military, and the Connecticut National Guard to ensure once Tess was retired she could be adopted by her former handler. And I was thrilled to be able to call Joe a few weeks ago with the good news: Tess would soon be his again. Now she is with the Steenbekes in her forever home in Culver, Indiana, taking on her latest mission as Joe’s partner, protector, and best friend.
“Madam Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing the courage and sacrifice of Joe Steenbeke and the loyal companionship of his beloved dog Tess. On behalf of 2nd District Hoosiers, I am grateful for their service to our country and the powerful example they set. This is more than a story of man’s best friend. This is the story of an unbreakable bond between two American heroes.”
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.