Memorial Day Tribute to War Dogs

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Dog With Airmen

Photo Courtesy of www.foreignpolicy.com

Having served in the Marine Corps and being an avid dog lover, I am elated to have the opportunity to write an article on how dogs have been utilized by the military for thousands of years.  And, to pay tribute to the many dogs who have faithfully and honorably given up their own lives as a sacrifice so that their human partners could safely return home to their families.

I hope you will please take a moment, with Memorial Day coming up, to read this memorial and share your thoughts and experiences with us.

History Of War Dogs

War Dogs In Training

You probably haven’t seen much T.V. coverage or read much history on dogs being used in battle; but our canine companions have been instrumental in  military victories for thousands of years. Dating back to 18th Century B.C.  in the invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos many dog breeds have been used for different purposes based on their specific abilities.  Some of those roles historically have been:

  • Fighting or Attack Dogs – Larger breeds such as a mastiff or molosser type breeds would be sent into battle ahead of the troops as a first line of attack. It wasn’t uncommon for those dogs to wear armor and large spiked collars.
  • Logistics & Communication – Dogs have been used in everything from pulling carts, sniffing out the wounded and dragging them to safety, passing messages in bottles back and forth, and in present day collecting intel via video cameras and microphones that are attached to them.
  • Detection & Tracking – Due to their heightened sense of smell dogs, of course, make excellent trackers and have been used to track fugitives and can even uncover and detect mines.
  • Sentries – From the beginning, sentry or guard dogs have been used to protect camps and bases and are still used today. It’s estimated that these sentry dogs saved over 10,000 US lives in Vietnam alone.

Current Uses of War Dogs

Dog Jumping From Plane

Photo Courtesy of www.foreignpolicy.com

War dogs are used more, today than they ever have been.  Training has progressed and their uses have evolved;  presently they have even more roles in our military than ever before.  Some of these r-*oles are things you’d expect such as police work, drug and explosive detection but they have also been used as tools of intimidation during interrogations.  This practice was short lived, however, and has been prohibited.

Famous War Dogs

Chips The War Dog

Photo Courtesy of www.foreignpolicy.com

Chips The War Dog:  Chips is the most decorated war dog from World War II.  Owned by Edward Wren of NY Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky Mix.  During his service Chip’s handler was Pvt. John P Rowell.

In 1943 during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler got themselves pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine gun team.  Breaking free from his handler, Chips proceeded to jump into the pillbox attacking the gunners forcing them out and leading to their surrender.

Sustaining several injuries during this incident Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart; which was later revoked due to the army preventing the commendation of animals.  Disney thought Chips deserved some recognition, however, and made a movie about him in 1990. Chips was able to retire and return to the Wren family in 1945.

Nemo The War Dog

Photo Courtesy of Nemo's War Dog Hero's Memorial

Nemo The War Dog:  Nemo was the first dog to return from the Vietnam war.  Nemo was purchased in 1964 and shipped off to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where he received his serial number A534 which was tattooed in his left ear.  Shortly after, he was sent to Vietnam.

Acting as a sentry, Nemo and his handler would patrol an area at the perimeter of the base every night and were the first line of defense against any Vietcong intruders.   In early morning hours of Dec 3rd 1966, 2 Vietcong units made an attempt to infiltrate the base.  Thanks to Nemo and the other sentry dogs’ security teams were alerted and after 7hrs of hard fighting the invasion was thwarted.  Unfortunately, this battle cost three other war dogs and their handlers their lives.

The following night Nemo and his handler were on patrol looking for any stragglers from the previous night’s attempted infiltration; during that patrol Nemo sensed danger and before his handler could even radio in the threat he was shot in the shoulder and Nemo was shot in the muzzle.  The bullet entered under his right eye and exited through his mouth.  Not one to quit without a fight, however, Nemo proceeded to attack the 4 Vietcong who had shot him, with no regard for his own life.  This gave his handler time to radio in for help.

Once back at base, Nemo received emergency medical care including skin grafts and a tracheotomy but still ended up losing his right eye.  These wounds proved to be enough to keep Nemo from returning to duty and he was flown back to Lackland where he spent the rest of his retirement years as an example of a great war dog.

This Video Is Slow To Load But Has A Bunch of Great Info

The Famous Cairo:  The war dog that you have probably heard of is, Cairo.  In fact, he’s probably the only member of SEAL Team 6 you’ll ever know by name.   Cairo, a tracking dog, and 23 other SEALS flew into Pakistan where they had been tasked with finding Osama Bin Laden and apprehending or killing him.  Their mission was of course successful.

Adopting A War Dog

Adopt a War Dog

Photo Courtesy of www.foreignpolicy.com

Effective November 6th 2000 because of H.R. 5314 civilians are now able to adopt a retiring military working dog.  Since that time many war dogs have gone to wonderful and loving forever homes.    Once a dog is declared “excess” after their active duty time is up, they can go up for adoption.  Prior to this, they are given a complete medical screening and assessment of temperament to make sure the dogs are suited for a civilian home.    Potential owners are also diligently screened to make sure they can handle one of these highly trained war dogs.

About 300 of these dogs are put up for adoption each year but just recently interested adopting parties has dramatically spiked.  There is no cost or adoption fee for adopting one of these heroes but the new family is responsible for travel fees (which can be up to $2000 depending on if they are located oversees).  Find out more about Adopting a Military Working Dog.

A Big Thanks To All War Dogs!

War Dog

Photo Courtesy of www.usatoday.com

Not only are they man’s best friend but they are also a big part of the reason that we have freedom, and live in the greatest country in the world.  With Memorial Day upon us, it’s a great time to reflect on the men and women who have served our country to give us the freedoms we enjoy but this year take a little extra time to remember the war dogs who have been instrumental in saving countless lives and making a lasting impact on the handlers they served.

In honor of all of our fallen war dogs, which you can view here on the K9 Wall of Honor, we will be donating $500 to the Military Working Dogs organization who go to great lengths to help retiring dogs find their forever homes.  (Read follow up here on Allan The CMWD that found a home because of this donation)

We would encourage you to support their cause as well!

If you have enjoyed this post and want to help us get the word out about war dogs and these great organizations that help find them forever homes feel free to link to this from your site or share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Another great way to help the military working dogs is to visit the ASPCA site and complete a message to send to your Congressmen.  There is currently a bill that will change a military dog’s classification from equipment to actual members of the armed forces. This would entitle them to added benefits they do not currently receive such as travel back from overseas bases if they retire at a base outside the states and medical care post retirement.

A Salute To Military Working Dogs & Their Handlers

There are 62 Comments

  1. Danielle says:

    Thank you for your dedication and sacrafice to this country. Semper Fi!! This tribute was truly breathtaking. I am a dog lover myself and would have loved to be a K-9 handler in the Marines, but of course they needed me else where. God Speed and Happy Memorial Day.

    Danielle
    CPL USMC 97-04

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  2. THank,s for sending this very informative email to me.
    I am very interested in what dogs acomplish.

    Thank’s again,
    Francis E Cole.

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  3. TERRY BOBERSKY says:

    WOW! WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE YOU WROTE HONORING OUR MILITARY DOGS AND THEIR HANDLERS. IT BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES TO READ OF THEIR DEVOTION AND COMMITMENT TO THEIR HANDLERS AND THEIR JOBS. IF ONLY HUMANS HAD THE SAME QUALITIES. YES, DOGS ARE YOUR BEST FRIENDS. I HAVE TWO BICHONS AND I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE MY LITTLE GUYS EVERY DAY AFTER WORK. THEY ARE ALWAYS SO EXCITED TO SEE ME AS WELL.

    THANK YOU FOR THE AWESOME ARTICLE AND GOD BLESS OUR MILITARY PERSONNEL. I THANK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF OUR SOLDIERS WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOMS….. AND THEIR LOYAL AND FAITHFUL FRIENDS….THE MILITARY DOGS WHO SERVE NOW AND THOSE WHO HAVE GONE ON TO THEIR PERMANENT HOME IN HEAVEN.

    GOD BLESS AMERICA!!

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    Jason Reply:

    You said it!

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  4. Luann Johnson says:

    This was the best article that I had ever read. It shows the loyality and bravery of dogs. Thanks to our troops and our troops dogs.

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  5. God is dog spelled in reverse. God sure knew what he was doing when he made these great creatures. God bless all our soldiers-two legged and four!!

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    Jason Reply:

    Amen!

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  6. HOLLY MATICIC says:

    I HAD TROUBLE VIEWING THE FILM BECAUSE OF THE TEARS. GOD BLESS ALL OUR TROOPS – HUMAN AND CANINE. THANK YOU

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    Jason Reply:

    Marines dont cry so I’m happy no one was in my office when I watched that the first time 😉

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  7. John Hinkle says:

    I have loved dogs all my life, and this makes me love them even more, a dog love is forever. You have never been love, if you have never had a dogs love. They are Gods gift to us, that is why dog spelled backwards is god.

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  8. DAR Trudy Kennedy says:

    These dogs and their handlers are awesome!

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  9. Thomas Neviaser says:

    These dogs are truly man’s best friend!
    The love and loyalty they receive are paid back many times over.
    God bless them and our military all!

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  10. Jan Davenport says:

    A wonderful tribute.

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  11. Linda Janelle says:

    Loving tribute to our courageous war dogs and handlers. Their bravery and loyalty is never ending. Their classification should be changed with out a doubt from equipment (awful) to loyal members of our military.

    I didn’t know the K9 wall of honor existed… beautiful! Thank YOU Chet for sharing this story, I still have goose bumps! I visually see what you have so proudly shared with us.

    Also, thank YOU for your Service and for being an avid dog lover!

    Have a beautiful Memorial Day.

    Warmly, Linda

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    Jason Reply:

    Thanks Linda! Happy Memorial day to you as well!

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  12. Harneet says:

    beautiful and a must read. a big salute n tribute to the war dogs. love them all. god bless.

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  13. D.J.Kopal says:

    That was AMAZING……………. USA DOGS !!!!!! THANKS TO THE TROOPS and there DOG HEREOS…………..

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  14. Babby Blair says:

    I loved this article. To think they left those loyal companions in Vietnam is terrible. Here they put their lives on the line for our troops and us and thats the thanks they got. Leave it to the government to think they were dispendable. But then again the government is wasteful.

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    Jason Reply:

    It is sad to think of all the dogs we left over there. I can only hope that we can learn from our mistakes and work hard to make sure that never happens again.

    It goes against everything inside a Marine to leave a comrade behind.

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    Babby Reply:

    I’m sure it was hard to leave them behind. Many of our soldiers fought hard to get the ones over there home now. I saw where one gal was reunited with her companion just the other day. took an act of congress but finally got it done. I believe she thought they were going to get rid of him. she fought like crazy and finally got him back to her.

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  15. Sharona Johnson says:

    do you have any memorial tributes to law enforcement retired dogs? I have a European German Shepard who served 7 years and now is 12 and at the vet probably will not make it so need to hear from others who had to deal with this thanks

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    Jason Reply:

    Sharon,

    I’m very sorry to hear your Shepherd isn’t doing well. As with anyone who has lost a dog I can certainly share in your grief you are experiencing. Our thoughts go out to you.

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    Mary Cook Reply:

    So sorry to hear about someone losing their loyal companion. We just lost our Rat Terrior after 14 years and even though he was not a war hero he was our hero and he has been gone for a year now and we were finally able to get a new puppy of the same breed. Hope he is just as good a friend but seems like it. God bless every dog that served and allof our men for giving us freedaom.

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    Dottie Reply:

    http://www.remember-me-memorial.com/

    I have a special section for them here.

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    Jason Reply:

    Awesome! Thanks for helping spread the word!

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  16. Mrs. Bill V. Brown says:

    This is a wonderful tribute to our troops and our dogs. As the widow of M.Gen. Bill Vernon Brown, USAF (ret) who was at Lackland AFB and actually knew Nemo because my husband led the Eleven Days of Christmas bombing mission. Thank you for remembering our wonderful troops and dogs at this time.

    I used to raise German Shepherds and find them to be one of the most loyal of breeds. I would indeed love to adopt a war dog. I live in Dothan, AL (only 12 mi from Ft. Rucker, AL). If you know of any war dogs being retired in my area, please let me know.

    Sincerely, Anne Brown

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    Jason Reply:

    Thank you for your husbands service! I know it was a sacrifice for you as well. That’s really neat your husband actually knew Nemo 😉

    I would suggest checking with the Military Working Dogs Adoption site as they have a great handle on what’s going on in this space and if there are available dogs.

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  17. Dottie says:

    I will add a section of my memorial website for these dogs who bravely gave their lives to save our soldiers.

    It brought tears to me eyes every time I see them stranded over there when their partner(soldier) has to leave without them.

    Yes they are just a dog some may say. But they have feeling just like we do – some have more than we do. It hurts them to see their friend leave them behind. If they have given their life to protect us – shouldn’t we do the small favor of seeing they come home to a loving family?

    They deserve more than just a pat on the head and “good boy”

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    Jason Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more!

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  18. Melodie Gingras says:

    What a wonderful way to show American’s how a dog can be more than just a dog but their best friend. I have a chihuahua that won’t let anyone near me in the car…or at my home because he is my best friend and protector I am not scared. I am sure that each and everyone of these service dogs are just a protective as my best friend Pogi. Bless the men, women, and service dogs for serving our country but most of all thank-you for the man that you are and sharing your story. I hope more people will read this and learn that respect is what every military personnel deserves and yes dogs are part of military (personnel)!

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  19. kathleen says:

    Wonderful article, thank you. The military RIP wall made me cry… I have a leonberger and was told by someone that they were used in the I and II WW probably by the Germans. Do you have any information about that?

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    Minette Reply:

    Here is more Leonberger information.

    http://leonberger-hunde.org/breed_history.html

    I love the Leonberger!

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    Jason Reply:

    Good find Minette…A lot of history on the breed here Kathleen. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting!

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    kathleen Reply:

    thanks so much Minette! my Leo is 7 months old and such a buddy! I had heard a story that the breed originated because a nobleman wanted a dog to match his families crest- a lion. I actually like the ‘true’ story better, that the breed comes from a savvy salesman meeting market demands!!!
    I watched your videos on dog protection training, very cool, but, probably not a leo’s forte!

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    Minette Reply:

    All you need with a leo is a look over at the decoy 😉 but what they wouldn’t know is oh how wonderfully cuddly the Leos are :)

    Someday I would like to have my own!

  20. Mary Lou says:

    That was absolutely beautiful, thank you.

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    Jason Reply:

    My pleasure!

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  21. These Working Dogs and Other’s like them that serve Service Connected Disabled Veterans have my respect and I honor them every chance I get because I owe my own life to them. This is why I started i.d.d. Paw Jaws Inc. which helps to train military and law enforcement canines and service their every need, rehabilitation and retirement program. I just can’t NO to a Canine who always said YES for me. There is no greater living force protecting the lives of our soldiers and the freedoms they serve that the Boots and Paws Squad serving in our military branches – they have proven they are man’s best friend > Working Dogs.

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    Jason Reply:

    Awesome site Julia! I can tell your passionate about it and wish you the best. If you feel your blog readers would like this post as well feel free to link!

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  22. Dyan says:

    God bless the war dogs…

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  23. I was sent this from: “TheDogTrainingSecret.com” and am very glad to have received it! I knew somewhat of what these wonderful dogs do in the service but this truly enlightened me. High praises for these dogs and their handlers! May they all join up at the Rainbow Bridge eventually and play as pups should one day!

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  24. Blake says:

    wow loved this memorial god bless america and its fighters man and mans best friend… gotta go love on my german shephard pup now

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    Jason Reply:

    Give him a scratch on the head from me!

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    blake Reply:

    will do!

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  25. XtinaS says:

    Great article! Anyone who has ever had a dog as a member of the family knows they have more generous souls than any human, and their loyalty and service are unequaled. I’m a bit surprised you didn’t mention Sgt. Stubby, however, a pit bull who was promoted to sergeant through combat during WWI.

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    Jason Reply:

    Didn’t come across anything about Sgt. Stubby in my research but I’ll look him up now. Thanks!

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  26. Rebecca Tsang says:

    It has been my previleges to look at those lovely animals and their awesome handlers. Thank you.

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  27. Diane Scarlett Chavez says:

    May the LORD bless and protect our troops and our precious war dogs who serve along side of them. Thanks for this beautiful tribute to these brave dogs.

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  28. Anne M. Jordan says:

    Very impressive!!! I had no idea how important these dogs are to our men & women in the Military. God bless them all for keeping our country free.

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  29. jackie thomas says:

    Semper Fi!! My son did 7 yrs with USMC, and 3 tours in Iraq. I appreciate so much that u have taken a moment to honor your brothers/ sisters/ canine in arms. So many ppl seem to forget we are still at war. Thank u for honoring our service people!! :))
    Thank u for your service to our country!

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    Jason Reply:

    A big thank you to your son! Semper Fi!

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  30. Linda Robinson says:

    amazing videos and article. We own a Belgium Malimois. Incredible breed. My daughter works in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq and has seen hundreds of these war dogs, every breed. They don’t volunteer, but are willing to serve and give the ultimate sacrifice for their handlers and this country.

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  31. Graham says:

    I hope you will allow me to tell two stories of dogs my wife and I have had. Next door to our house there was a bitch on heat and one of the dogs that tried to cover her was a border collie type. He was the size of a cocker spaniel though. After the bitch came off season he disappeared and after three days re-appeared at our front doorstep. My wife felt sorry for him and left a small amount of food for him each day. He started to follow her to work and would wait outside the office building for her to come home.One day my wife left by the back door of the offices to take our car which I had left for her, to go shopping in town.When she came home it was about 22h00 as she had visited our son in town. She asked where the doggie was and I said he did not come home. We then went to the offices and low and behold he was still waiting for her to come out of the office front door. Needless to say he came home and became our faithful doggie. We believe that his owners had moved at the end of the month when the bitch next door was on heat. No advert could be found of a missing dog so we kept him. Sadly after 5 years of wonderful companionship he had to be put down as a result of lung cancer. He could no longer romp and was really having trouble breathing.

    My wife said, “no more dogs unless it is a puppy.” She really was traumatized by the loss of Scampie. That was the name we gave him and I believe it was his name as he responded immediately I called him.

    About six months after scampie died I was given a Rottweiler spayed bitch 7yrs. old. I brought her home on a Friday evening while my wife was in town. When she got home she was very angry and totally ignored the dog. She went outside to her pottery room to do some pottery and as she walked passed the dog she just said I don’t want you as my heart is still hurting from the loss of Scampie. About 30mins.later she came inside and asked me to come to the pottery room in about 10mins, I thought to see a piece of pottery she was making. When I got to the room she was at her table and the dog, Midnight by name was lying under her chair. As I was sitting with her in the room a person walked passed behind the security fence of a fruit packing factory behind our property and this new dog just about climbed over the fence in defense of us both. She had only been at our house about two hours.

    Midnight has taken over our hearts and home and if I was to tell you of the antics this 7 year old puppy gets up to you would not believe it. She has been the cure of my wife’s pain and loss of Scampie and although we will never forget him Midnight has become a very special friend and guardian to us both. Many thanks for your tribute to dogs in war. I say to all dogs that have saved their masters, “You are truly a gift of God in those circumstances.”

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  32. Debbie Woodward says:

    please tell me what I can do to help. I dont have a lot of money, but I can make time. Maybe help post the dogs or foster until an appropriate home is found. Try and raise money. Whatever I can. Let me know

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  33. Joyce says:

    I was fortunate to meet one of the wardog handlers a few years ago. When his tour was up, he had to leave his last dog with a new handler. When her tour was up, he was hoping to get her home. But he said she was too good at her job, sniffing out mines. That she probably would not live until he could get her.

    As you can see by this wonderful video, this soldior told of how the dogs save our men and women’s lives. They give up their lives to protect and fight.

    He also told me that the dogs do so much more. The companionship means so much to all of them. Not just the handlers, any one around them. The pictures showed the dogs sleeping with their handlers. He said there would be four or five guys trying to get some rest. All of them would have a hand on the dog. Not only for the comfort, but if the dog moved, they would know.

    There is no way to show how much I appreciate our men, women and dogs in the service. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough for all they do for us.

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  34. Erika Casanova says:

    Thank you so much for putting the attention so needed for our war Dog heros. Without them, many more men would have died. These are the unsung heros of war time, and always have been. Great article ! As a dog trainer myself, I was very moved by this. Well Done. Gog Bless our Soldier Dogs ! Erika Casanova
    ” Allegheny K-9 Academy “

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  35. Denise Bradlyn says:

    So proud of our military men, women, and K9 with out them our country would not be where it is today “FREE”!!!!!!

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  36. Michael says:

    Jason,
    Thank You for your service to our country. We have 3 sons in the Military and have just adopted CWD Alan, (Contract Working Dog). The Contract Working Dogs, sometimes don’t get the attention that the Military Working Dogs get. The only difference is that K9’s like Alan are contracted by the DOD from private kennels instead of being purchased. Alan served 8 years in Afghanistan as a top Explosives Detection Dog and is now enjoying civilian life on the farm, (thanks to a generous benefactor, ;).
    Thank You again for recognizing the K9 heroes of our armed Forces and for giving them the credit they deserve.

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  37. Thank you and GOD BLESS each of you, until a person watches this film, I do not think a person realizes all the LOVE and DEVOTION between a military working dog and his soldier have for each other. Thank you for a beautiful and very touching emotional film. widow of 25 year VETERAN, ANN

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  38. Jeff says:

    I’ll tell you about my first “close” relationship with a military working dog. I brought about a dozen dog and their soldier/handlers out of Cambodia in Spring of 1970 in my Chinook helicopter.The dogs and the soldiers were filthy and exhausted and they were all asleep within just a few minutes of takeoff…except one very large German shepherd. As soon as his soldier/handler was asleep, he wandered up to the cockpit and laid down on the center console. Not only are the controls for the engines located there but also the radios. Well…as you might guess, our big furry guest nodded off but was instantly awakened when either my co-pilot or I tried to change frequencies on any of our radios. His throaty grumbling was enough to convince us that we didn’t need the radios. We simply asked our area controller to relay messages and got everyone to their home base within an hour…asleep.

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  39. I really enjoyed this post. You explain this topic very well. I really love your blog and I will definetly bookmark it under great seo.

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  40. Carol Hull-Brown says:

    Fantastic. Makes me appreciate my German Shepherds even more as my friends and security. The dogs are fantastic and I can appreciate how much they meant to the soldiers who themselves are fantastic in what they do. Being here in New Zealand it is a world away from what they have done but my thoughts go out to all those who have served and are serving to keep us all safe.

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