Memorial Day Tribute to Dogs Who Have Served

This week’s post is a guest-post by Dina at Critter Writer. I plan to include guest posts along with my own writings as I want this to become a community that includes other people’s perspectives, and also shares your amazing ideas. If you are interested in guest-posting on Biscuit Life Companion, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via our contact form.


 

Memorial Day is upon us.  It’s time to pause and give thanks to all the Veterans who fought to maintain the freedom and ideals this country was founded on.  Among these brave soldiers is a less public, rarely thought of group of canines who have served the United States and become heroes in their own right.  Let’s not forget to also honor these dog soldiers for their service.

Military service dogs date all the way back to ancient Egypt, Greece, Persia and Rome among other countries.  At the time, most dogs were used as sentries and patrol dogs but some were used in battle even at this early juncture.  Although the first official use of canines by the US military dates back to the Seminole Wars, military dogs really gained popularity during the Civil War.

Hounds were used to guard prisoners and deliver messages between companies during the Civil War, and appeared in recruiting posters and propaganda as a symbol for the US during World War I.  It was during the World War I era that soldiers began to see the advantages of having a dog around for Company morale.  Dogs became mascots and lookouts, providing comfort, stability and a source of stress relief for American Soldiers.

Today, dogs are vital members of all branches of the US military.  As of 2011, over 600 working dogs were participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Traditionally, most working dogs had been German Shepherds, but in recent years smaller dogs and mixed breeds are being utilized more and more for their individual skills.  After training at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, TX, each working dog is paired with one handler and wears a vest outfitted with cameras and microphones to relay information back to their handlers.

In 2011 legislation was changes to protect military service dogs and give them the honorable discharge they deserve.  Prior to the change in law, military dogs were required to be euthanized at retirement.  The new law allows these canine heroes to be put up for adoption after service.  Lex, a German Shepherd was the first working dog to be granted early retirement in order to be adopted.  His handler, Corporal Dustin J. Lee was killed in an Iraqi attack that left Lex wounded by shrapnel.  Lex refused to leave the side of his fallen handler and had to be dragged away by soldiers.Lex

Lex recovered from his wounds at Camp Jejune, although shrapnel in his spine was not able to be removed.  Corporal Lee’s parents appealed to the Marines to allow them to adopt Lex.  After the case gained National attention and an online petition was created, the military sanctioned Lex’s early retirement and he was able to live out his days in loving comfort with the Lee family until 2012.

Canines in the military have come a long way during their centuries of service.  Their heroism is finally gaining recognition both by the US military and the public.  Many dogs have been awarded Purple Hearts and other honors for their years of service.  The most notable change is their right to be adopted and given a loving home after retirement.  If you would like to find out more about adopting a canine veteran, visit www.saveavet.org.

When the sun rises this Memorial Day, give thanks for the millions of soldiers who have served and given their lives for their country.  Remember also to take a moment to honor Lex and the canines like him who have heroically dedicated their short lives to protecting the US and everything our great Nation stands for.