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America's War Dogs

Glenn Beine [Facebook]

In June, 2011, MWD Bronco was on patrol with his handler,  Staff St. John Mariana, in Afghanistan when they encountered an enemy combatant.  Bronco was shot in his muzzle.  He and Mariana were medically evacuated and Bronco underwent life-saving surgery.  It was a career-ending injury, but Bronco was adopted by his handler, who credits the dog with saving his life - just one of many examples of military canine heroism!

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Memorial Day is a time for our country to honor America’s combat veterans. And many of those brave men and women who fought to preserve our freedom will testify to the contribution made by their four-footed comrades – America’s war dogs.

Although other countries used dogs in combat, such as Germany in World War I, it wasn’t until the United States entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor that the U.S. military decided to officially explore the idea of using dogs. At first the animals were trained for sentry duty, to guard industrial plants and Army installations. The Coast Guard used dogs to patrol the beaches. They stood sentry duty for the Navy at its naval yards and ammunition depots.

Dogs were screened before they were accepted for training. They had to be very intelligent, strong, healthy, aggressive but not vicious, courageous, and be large and heavy enough to push a human to the ground. Truly exceptional dogs were selected for specialized training to assist combat patrols with scouting and for carrying messages. They detected mines and weapons caches; they warned the troops of booby traps and ambushes; they dragged wounded soldiers to safety and put themselves in harm’s way to protect their humans.

Altogether, more than ten thousand dogs were trained for use during World War II. But it didn’t stop there. The Army used about fifteen hundred dogs in the Korean War and almost four thousand in Vietnam. They served their country in Desert Storm and in other military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are indispensable in sniffing out and detecting deadly IEDs. There is no way to count the casualties prevented and lives saved by America’s brave military dogs.

So on this Memorial Day, as you remember the brave men and women who fought and died defending our country, consider the contribution made by the canine heroes who willingly gave their lives to protect our soldiers; they serve as a model of loyalty and courage, when you’re speaking of pets.

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Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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