Today is a day to remember those who have fallen in service to our country. Thank you to those who have given their lives to protect our country.
I also want to recognize the dogs that have served our country. In May 2011, the use of dogs in the military came into the spotlight when Osama bin Laden was found in his compound by a Belgian Malinois named Cairo. Cairo, wearing a $30,000 bullet-proof vest with camera, was able to show his handler what was inside as he followed commands given through a microphone. Since the story broke, the number of applicants looking to adopt retired military dogs has gone through the roof.
But the ability to adopt retired military dogs was rare until 11 years ago. In 2000, then-President Clinton signed a bill that allowed retired military dogs to be put up for adoption. Previously, the vast majority of them were euthanized after their service. Their service goes back hundreds of years:
• American Pit Bull Terriers were used in the Civil War to send messages and protect soldiers, and in World War I on publications and recruitment posters.
• In World War I, a mutt named Sergeant Stubby served for 18 months in France. He captured a German spy and warned his unit of poison gas attacks, among other heroic acts. He knew everything from bugle calls to how to salute when the soldiers around him did.
• During World War II, Doberman Pinschers became the official dog of the United States Marine Corps. They, along with other dogs, served in World War II in Japan.
• Dogs are credited with saving over 10,000 human lives during the Vietnam War. Of the 5,000 that served, only 200 came home. The rest were abandoned in Vietnam as “surplus equipment” or euthanized.
They’ve served in various roles in war, and they’ve taken various paths to get there. Some dogs are bred and trained for service; some are pets that went along with their masters; others adopted soldiers overseas and became both companion and protector to our human military heroes. Others are left at home when their human serves overseas and wait anxiously for their return along with the rest of the family. Some have performed countless acts of military service and returned home; others are killed in the line of duty.
Today, dogs in the military no longer have an automatic death sentence upon retirement. But for all those dogs who came before, and for those who never make it back home, we thank them for their service – to our country and to our soldiers.
Here are two videos – one of a handler and his dog, showing the work they do and sharing a story of how military dogs save lives, and one that is simply beyond words.
Thank you to everyone, human and canine, who has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
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