First war memorial to recognise military dogs in the US
NewsTuesday 29 October 2013
Yesterday saw the United State’s first national monument to recognise the sacrifices of dogs in combat dedicated to the US military.
The nine-foot tall bronze statue was revealed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and it features four dogs and a handler. It is also inscribed with the words ‘Guardians of America’s Freedom’.
Reuters reported that John Baker of Fallon, Nevada, who is a military dog handler, said: "These dogs were patriots just as much as anybody else who served.”
Baker’s 212th Military Police Company Detachment A was known as “Hell on Paws”.
Lackland is home to the US Armed Forces centre that has trained all of the dogs for all of the branches of the military since 1958.
Built with private donations, the sculpture features the four major breeds of dog that have been used since World War II, which are the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Belgian Malinois.
Dogs have always played an integral role in the US military. In World War I a bulldog called Stubby helped to sniff out poisoned gas. He was eventually promoted to sergeant and decorated for bravery by General John Pershing. He even became the mascot for Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
Dogs were also used in World War II and in North Korea and Vietnam, where they were used as sentries, scouts and trackers. They were also used in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they have detected improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and roadside explosives.
Larry Buehner, who served in Vietnam as a platoon scout with the Army's First Cavalry Division, said he is alive because of his military dog.
"Callie saved my life on at least one occasion," he said on Monday of the dog that accompanied him and his unit on jungle patrols.
John Burnam, who handled dogs during the war in Vietnam, said he got the idea for a memorial after military officials decided not to let dogs working in Vietnam return to the United States with their handlers.
"They were heroes, and they were left to die," said Burnam, who has written two books about combat dogs.
"Dog units are worth a million dollars for everything they do ... You can't say enough, you can't give enough accolades to them."