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Fallen, dog-loving Marine honored at Miami airport K-9 training center dedication

Miami-Dade’s canine crew has a new place to train at the airport: an area that honors a fallen Marine who had worked with dogs in the military.

County officials and the soldier’s family were on hand Friday at Miami International Airport to roll out the new complex.

To honor Lance Cpl. Colton W. Rusk, the Department of Defense named one of its new training dogs after him.

CColton made an appearance Friday with his handler at the dedication.

“We just thought that it would be a nice way that since the dog is here and going to be working here, to honor the memory of this fallen soldier,” said airport spokesman Marc Henderson.

CColton is part of a group of dogs that sniff out possible explosives. The Belgian Malinois came from a breeding program at the Department of Defense.

Rusk, a Marine Corps canine handler, was killed by a sniper in Afghanistan in December 2010 as he was helping to clear an explosive device. At the time, he was with his canine partner, Eli.

Eli survived and lives with Rusk’s family in Orange Grove, Texas.

CColton was certified during the dedication ceremony as a TSA National Explosives Detection canine.

CColton is assigned to Miami-Dade police Sgt. David Dominguez, who was intrigued with the name of the dog and the story of the Marine.

“I know he was named after someone,” said Dominguez, who is stationed at the airport. “I had to inquire who and it turned into something big.”

Friday’s ceremony touched Lance Cpl. Rusk’s family.

“We never would have believed the outpouring,” said his mother, Kathy Rusk. “There are so many people here. It just puts faith back into the American people. That’s what means to most to me. That my son didn’t die in vain.”

The Marine’s father and brothers also attended Friday’s honor. After the ceremony, the Rusk family unveiled a memorial sign in front of the K-9 Training Area, where four helicopters flew above in a V-shape.

The outdoor center, which opens on Monday next to the airport fire station, will train dogs to identify odors and keep them in tip-top shape.

Lance Cpl. Colton Rusk “was never one of the guys to be in the limelight,” said Cody Rusk, “but it’s good to do stuff that keeps him here. We know he won’t be forgotten.”

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