Legislation moving through Congress would create a national monument honoring the military working dogs or “war dogs” that sniffed out booby traps, guard military bases, track down missing service persons, and other numerous brave acts.
“Having a dog in the service is, I think, why I’m still here,” said Bruce Wellington of Camarillo, who served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II with his German shepherd mix Prince.
A corporal in the 2nd War Dog Platoon, Wellington said war dogs and handlers in his platoon led more than 500 patrols into enemy territory.
“There would be thousands more American grave marks in Vietnam, World War II, Korea, even today without these dogs,” said John C. Burnam, author of “Dog Tags of Courage: Combat Infantrymen and War Dog Heroes in Vietnam.”
Burnam has made it his life’s mission to seek recognition for the estimated 4,000 dogs who served in Vietnam.
More about the memorial after the jump.
It could take years for the memorial to be actually constructed, but the first step came in May when the House approved the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill instructing the Pentagon to make way for a monument at a U.S. military installation. Burnam’s nonprofit group National War Dogs Memorial Inc. would pay for and maintain the monument. The measure could go to President Bush by October.
Smaller monuments to war dogs have been erected at March Air Force Base in Riverside as well as at Fort Benning, Ga. But Bennett [former mayor of Corona] called the possibility of a national memorial “spectacular.”
“It’s time,” he said, recounting stories of dogs sniffing out Viet Cong hiding underground, or diving off patrol boats and emerging with an enemy soldier loaded with explosives in their jaws.
“Nobody really understands the role these animals played in fighting our wars,” Bennett says.
Burnam said he, too, can scarcely believe national recognition for war dogs is almost a reality. He has just one requirement: that the memorial be pet-friendly.
“You definitely want dogs to come,” Burnam said.