Memorial Day: a thank you to our canine heroes

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dogs memorial day
Dog-handler reading a message brought by a messenger dog, in France, during World War I. Photo by Tom Aitken.

Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer. It’s a time when we can enjoy the beautiful weather, barbecues and friends, but it is also a time to remember those who lost their lives while serving our country.

Throughout our history, it is well documented that our canine companions played a vital role in our military. These courageous dogs carried first aid supplies to the wounded, delivered messages between the lines, served as watchdogs for the men in the trenches, and tracked enemy soldiers. They also transported equipment and supplies. Tragically though, many lost their lives along the way.

Soldier and dog memorial day
Santa Rita, Guam (Oct. 27, 2006) – Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of his MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Looney.

One way in which we have paid homage to the dogs who have lost their lives while serving in the military is through the War Dog Memorial on Guam. The memorial is a life-sized bronze and granite statue of Kurt, a Doberman who saved the lives of 250 Marines by warning them of approaching Japanese troops, and displays the names of 25 Dobermans who gave their lives.

Today, dogs continue to serve in the armed forces in a variety of ways such as bomb detection, but they have also taken on a new role for many North American veterans, offering comfort and companionship to soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So, in honor of these courageous canines, we ask that you take a moment this Memorial Day and give thanks for their heroic efforts and remember those dogs who served and lost their lives, many of whom were family pets just like our own.