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Oregon soldier on rescued Afghanistan cat: 'He was my saving grace'

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OREGON CITY, OR (KPTV) -

He's a battle-tested, decorated army sergeant who risked his life to protect our country.

But it's a more personal risk he took that's getting a lot of attention.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Knott rescued his cat, Koshka, while serving in Afghanistan.

"He was showing some signs that people weren't taking very good care of him," Staff Sgt. Knotts said.

Even though soldiers are not allowed to have pets, Knotts made room for Koshka in his tiny office. In the middle of fighting a war, Knotts said the cat was a reminder of his life back home in Oregon City.

"You lose faith in a lot but sometimes it's the smallest things that bring you back," Knotts said.

It was a lesson Knotts took to heart on Dec. 8, 2011, when a suicide bomber targeted a military convoy near his base in the Maiwand District of Afghanistan.

"I was so devastated that I lost all hope. Two of my friends were violently taken away," Knotts said.

Knotts was crying in his office when Koshka came over and crawled in his lap.

"I'd lost hope in myself. I'd lost faith. Then all of a sudden this cat came over and it was like ‘hey, you are you,'" Knotts said.

In that moment, Knotts says he realized Koshka could not stay in Afghanistan.

"He pulled me out of one of my darkest times so I had to pull him out of one of his darkest places," Knotts said.

Unable to get the cat on a military convoy, a local interpreter bravely said he'd take the cat to Kabul. If the Taliban caught the Afghan doing an American a favor, it could mean death.

"The risk to him was immense," Knotts said.

It took weeks to hear back, but eventually Koshka made it to Kabul safely. Knott's parents paid the $3,000 it cost to fly the cat from the Middle East to Portland, Oregon. For them, it was an easy investment.

"He was my saving grace," Knotts said. "He kept me alive during that tour."

Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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