On Memorial Day remember all of the fallen

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Red, White and Blue Umbrella. Pictured on Memorial Day, 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Patriotic Colors. Memorial Day Ceremony in Warrenton, Va., May 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. I hope you are enjoying the last day of your three-day weekend. I hope you’ve had fun celebrating the unofficial start of summer, and I hope you celebrated it responsibly. But most importantly I hope you’ve stopped to reflect upon the true meaning and significance of Memorial Day.

Today is not about blockbuster sales, blockbuster movies or backyard barbecues. It is a time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in armed conflicts around the world. It is a time to reflect on their patriotism, sense of duty and courage. It is also a time to remember the families that had to go on after suffering the unspeakable loss of their loved ones.

Remembering America’s Fallen War Dogs

But there is another group we seldom hear about that should not be forgotten. These are the American military animals — mostly (but not all) dogs — that were also killed in action.

In an effort to learn more about the unsung heroes of the U.S.A.’s armed forces, I came across several websites, including eagleid.com. This page pays tribute to “The War Dogs of the United States Military.” Its contents brought me to tears.

Wreath. Shot at Memorial Day Service in Warrenton, Virginia in 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Memorial Day Wreath. Warrenton, Va., 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Apparently there was a time, not too long ago, when the American military regarded its dogs the much in the same way it viewed tanks, planes, submarines, guns and bombs. These dogs — living creatures — were “relegated to the status of military equipment instead of personnel.” Among other things, this once meant that the dogs that survived the horrors of war were simply discarded (left behind or put to sleep) once they served their “purpose.” It also meant that the geniuses in charge of the U.S. armed forces historically refused to recognize the part that the dogs killed in action and those that survived played in this country’s military campaigns. According to the author of the article on the Tribute to War Dogs of the United States Military page, the rationale for this was that honoring canine warriors would be “demeaning to servicemen.”

Luckily the public and the “servicemen” themselves roundly castigated the idea. And as so often happens when the establishment is called out in the court of public opinion, significant changes ensued. Most importantly, military dogs are no longer put down or abandoned once their tour(s) of duty end. From what I understand, they either join their handlers once their handlers return to civilian life or are put up for adoption.

Increased media coverage in recent years has also heightened public awareness about the work that military dogs do and the bond between them and their human partners. News about the death of our war dogs is no longer ignored. Military dog handlers who receive honors for their efforts are quick to share credit with their canine partners. Internet stories about dogs grieving for their fallen handlers and troops angered by the loss of their dogs are now commonplace.

Rest In Peace, Brave Warriors

Old Glory. American Flag. Photo taken at Memorial Day Ceremony by Alexandra Bogdanovic
American Flag. As seen at Memorial Day ceremony in Warrenton, Virginia. May 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

In addition to information about the history of U.S. war dogs, eagleid.com provides a  list of the U.S. military dogs that have served in armed conflicts since the Civil War (including those presumed missing or left behind). There are too many to list here, so I will include those designated on the site as “killed in action.” They are:

  • Buster, World War II
  • Buck, German shepherd-mix, Vietnam
  • Royal19X8, German shepherd, Vietnam
  • Duke 383M, German shepherd, Vietnam
  • Clacker, German shepherd, Vietnam
  • Kreiger, German shepherd, Vietnam
  • Poncho, German shepherd, Vietnam
  • SSD Cooper, Yellow Lab (and his handler PFC Kory Wiens), Operation Iraqi Freedom

The Tribute to the War Dogs of the U.S. Military page also includes links to other resources that you can visit if you feel so inclined.

In the meantime, please take a moment to remember all of the fallen.

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