Today Is National K9 Veterans Day
Is your dog walking around the house looking prouder than usual today? If so, maybe it’s because today is National K9 Veterans Day.
Military dogs have been assisting U.S. soldiers since the mid-1800s. And on many occasions, saving lives.
There are currently about 3,000 military working dogs deployed around the globe. They work with the military and on border patrol. As well as with local and federal law enforcement.
Many of them train with the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There they learn how to climb ladders and navigate underground tunnels. And even scale walls.
WWI Hero Stubby
This concept goes back centuries. Man’s best friend has served in wars since at least 600 B.C. A Lydian king deployed dogs to help break the invading Cimmerians army.
Nearly 2,500 years later, a Confederate spy hid secret documents in the fur of her dog during the Civil War. The canine delivered the papers to General Pierre G.T. Beauregard.
The U.S. had an unofficial canine war force during World War I. A Terrier named Stubby served overseas with the 102nd Infantry. He gave early warning to soldiers of artillery, gas and infantry attacks.
Despite being wounded by a hand grenade, Stubby remained in the war. He later apprehended a German spy. And was promoted from private to sergeant.
Chips Earns Awards
During the Second World War, U.S. military dogs were officially recognized for their efforts. Dogs for Defense, a private organization, was established to recruit dogs for military service.
Many of these dogs came from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. Linked closely with Marines, the Dobermans were not merely morale boosters. They served as sentries, scouts, mine detectors and messengers.
Other breeds were also recruited to serve in the U.S. military at this time. Including Airedale Terriers and Boxers. Plus Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Saint Bernards.
By war’s end, there were nearly 20,000 dogs in the service. One of the most famous was Chips, a German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix.
Despite being wounded, he contributed to the capture of 14 Axis soldiers in one day. He earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Serving in Korea & Vietnam
Military dogs were also used during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Richard Cunningham was a sentry-dog handler in Vietnam. Here’s what he said.
“I’ve heard it said that without our military dogs there would be 10,000 additional names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. I think that’s an understatement.”
More recently, U.S. Navy SEALS used dogs while conducting a raid on a compound in Pakistan. It resulted in the death of al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden.
In 2019, the U.S. Central command employed dogs to conduct a raid in Barisha, Syria. It resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Medal of Courage
Among the dogs that have earned K9 Medal of Courage awards for their efforts in the Middle East are:
- Layka, a Belgian Malinois. She took four shots from an AK-47 while saving the life of her partner, retired U.S. Army Ranger Trent McDonald. Layka became the first K9 since World War II to receive the Medal of Heroism Award.
- Troll, a Dutch Shepherd who helped safely evacuate a critically injured soldier in Afghanistan. Troll conducted 89 combat missions. He cleared routes of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and helped conduct compound raids.
- Sergeant Yeager, a 13-year-old black Labrador. He served as an IED detection dog in Iraq and Afghanistan. He received shrapnel wounds in an explosion and was sent home for treatment. He was adopted by a North Carolina family.
- K9 Niko, a Dutch Shepherd. He spent four years in Afghanistan protecting U.S. and foreign dignitaries. Plus embassy personnel. He conducted more than 600 missions for the U.S. State Department. He now lives on the Alaskan frontier.
- Emmie, a 12-year-old black Labrador. She completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan. They were on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps during Operation Enduring Freedom. Now retired, she helps with the care of her handler’s autistic son.
Today’s military dogs are incredible. Their sense of smell is about 50 times stronger than ours. So, they can sniff out IEDs before they detonate.
These dogs are trained for a variety of jobs.
- Sledge dogs find downed airmen in snow and inaccessible regions
- Pack dogs transport up to 40-pound loads of supplies
- Tracker dogs track and find
- Mine and bomb detector dogs find explosives
- Tunnel and trap detector dogs find tunnels, booby traps and mines
- Sentry dogs assist with guard duty and warn of trespassers
- Attack dogs are used to apprehend suspects
- Tactical dogs are trained for combat situations
- Silent scout dogs warn handlers of proximity of enemy troops without barking or growling
- Messenger dogs deliver messages during combat
- Casualty dogs find wounded persons either on the battlefield or in debris
Today is the 80th anniversary of the U.S. K9 Corps. As well as National K9 Veterans Day. It’s a day we honor the service and sacrifice of these life-saving dogs.
We don’t need another reason to love and admire our canine friends. But it’s good to know some are heroically helping keep our active military members safe. And keeping our country free.
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