by Jeff Locke, 11/1/2013
Most of us have had pets in our lives one way or the other. When I turned fourteen my birthday present was an eight week old Chow/Lab mix. He was the fluffiest little thing… He had a purple tongue and a curly tail, and he slept in a box by my bed until he was house trained. I spent the next two years teaching him every command and trick I could. He was my friend and companion. When he had to be put to sleep at seventeen, I was right there by his side, and I cried like a baby. So I can’t imagine the emotion and depth of connection my fellow Marines and Soldiers must have toward their working companions.
This past Monday, a new monument was dedicated at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX to celebrate the lives and contributions of Military Working Dog Teams. The dedication ceremony was attended by current and former handlers, including Veterans in Film & Television’s (VFTLA) own Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Dowling, author of “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog“, military press, and some national news outlets. The wonderful statue was unveiled to the delight of the crowd. The bronze statue has one handler surrounded by the four major breeds of working dogs used by the military: German Shepard, Doberman, Labrador Retriever, and the Belgian Malinois. The base of the statue reads “Guardians of America’s Freedom”, and just next to it is a smaller tribute fountain statute dedicated to Vietnam Working Dogs. It is of a young handler sitting with his German Shepard, pouring water into his helmet for his best friend, while the inscription reads “Not Forgotten Fountain”. The funds for the statues, construction of the monument and fountain, and the dedication ceremony were raised privately by donations, and the hard work of activists like John Burnam, President of JBMF Inc., a non-profit that oversaw the design, direction, and installation of the monument. More info can be learned at the links below this article.
The reasoning behind the location of the Working Dogs Monument (WDM) is that Lackland AFB is the training grounds for these dogs. MP’s and Infantry handlers from every branch come to Lackland for an intense and life changing experience at the Medina Training Annex (MTA). In order to support these amazing dogs there is a vet hospital on site. The Holland Military Working Dog Hospital is the main vet hospital for working dogs across all the branches of the US Military, and other federal agencies such as the NTSB, TSA, and their National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. They care for approximately 900 dogs and puppies that are either in training at the Annex, or are housed in local area foster homes. The Hospital and it’s separate dedicated clinic, located on the grounds of the training annex, house some of the best and newest veterinary technology including a MRI machine, buoyant water rehab, 14 vets, and 23 nurses. For more info on the hospital please visit http://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/animed/mwd/Pages/DODMWDVS.aspx
Another Working Dogs Monument that doesn’t get much notice is located in Guam, and is dedicated solely to the Marine Corps Working Dogs of WWII. A bronze replica of a Doberman Pinscher sits atop several plaques of dedication to the dogs that lost their lives in the course of battle on Guam in 1944. The statue was dedicated in 1994, and in 1998 a copy was sent to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. More about this memorial can be read here: http://www.vet.utk.edu/wardog/
I am humbled and honored to not only learn so much about these working dogs, but to have the pleasure of knowing Mike Dowling personally. Reading about his time with Rex, and the subsequent handing off to his next handler and home brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could have been there at the dedication ceremony, but writing this article has connected me more than I ever imagined. Here is a big Hoo-Rah to our fellow canine warriors, and a humble Semper Fidelis to those who have embodied those words. None of us can match these working dogs when it comes to being Always Faithful…
For more information and news articles on the Military Working Dogs National Monument, please visit the links below.