Jesse Knott was serving his time at a base in Southern Afghanistan when he first noticed a new feral cat on the base. "There was this cute cat running running around and doing his cute kitten things," Knott told the Andrew Walsh Show. "Everybody fell in love with him." But as the cat grew older, Knott began seeing signs that the cute cat was being abused. He decided to intervene, luring the feline into his tiny office with a piece of steak, even though soldiers are not allowed to keep pets.
He named him Koshka – Russian for cat. "This bond just started to develop between the two of us that I couldn't put words to," he said.
On Dec. 8, 2011, a suicide bomber targeted a military convoy near his base in the Maiwand District of Afghanistan. Two of his friends were killed, and Knotts was devastated and losing hope and faith.
When he was crying in his office, Koshka came over, crawled in his lap and renewed his will to go on. Knotts remembered, "all of a sudden this cat came over and it was like 'hey, you are you.'"
"I just kind of started going into a deep depression, and the cat really keyed up on me and started playing more. He wouldn't let me stew and kept reminding me to take care of him."
Knotts realized that Koshka could not stay in Afghanistan, where he was in danger of being released back to a world where he was abused. A local interpreter offered to take the cat to Kabul, risking his own life in the process by doing a favor for an American. The cat made it to Kabul, and Knott's parents paid $3,000 to fly the cat from the Middle East to Portland, Oregon.
"He was my saving grace. He kept me alive during that tour."