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Happy Tails: Memorial Day tribute to dogs in service

Thousands and thousands of dogs have given their lives for their handlers. Dogs have served in the U.S. military during every modern war - World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan - as trackers, scouts, sentries, and messengers; as attack dogs, mine detection dogs, and rescue dogs. - PEG SCHAEFFER
Next earlier Happy Tail: Happy Tails: May 19-25, 2013 is Dog Bite Prevention Week

By Peg Schaeffer
President and Founder, Sugarfoot Farms Rescue

This is Memorial Day Weekend, a time to honor our soldiers who gave their lives defending our country. My father fought in World War II and my mother's first husband gave his life in that war. I grew up during the Vietnam War and my cousins served. I have a niece who is in the Air Force and there comes a time that she might be sent overseas to defend our country. I'm sure everyone reading this knows someone who has gone to war to protect us. But do you realize how many dogs have served in the armed forces and how many lives they have saved?

Thousands and thousands of dogs have given their lives for their handlers. Dogs have served in the U.S. military during every modern war--World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan--as trackers, scouts, sentries, and messengers; as attack dogs, mine detection dogs, and rescue dogs.

The dogs are credited with saving thousands of American lives and great acts of heroism. Some military analysts estimate as many as 10,000 U.S. and allied lives were saved during the Vietnam War alone.

Dogs were first used in the United States as messengers during the Civil War. By the early part of the twentieth century, most European countries used dogs in their armies. During World War I, the Germans trained 30,000 dogs to act as messengers and rescue workers to locate fallen soldiers. French and Belgian forces used dogs as sentries and messengers.

The U.S. opened its first military dog training center in July 1942. The dogs were donated by patriotic citizens, and the dog handlers were military personnel who volunteered because they loved dogs. Unofficially known as the K-9 Corps, dog and handler acted as a team, and the dogs that survived returned home to their families.

That tradition was broken in Vietnam. More than 4,000 dogs were procured by the government and sent to Vietnam to serve as scouts, sentries, and mine and tunnel detectors, and in search-and-rescue missions. Although only 281 were officially killed in action, only about 200 returned to the United States. Army veterinarians euthanized many; many more were simply abandoned, and in all likelihood wound up as dinner for starving Vietnamese villagers. The dogs that served in Vietnam were essentially characterized as equipment and left behind. Not much thanks for dogs who saved 10,000 lives.

SEAL Team Six, the elite military operatives who killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan were accompanied by one canine companion.

"The capability they [the dogs] bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine," said Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "By all measures of performance, their yield outperforms any asset we have in our industry. Our Army would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource."

The dogs are a fighting force on four legs that are able to parachute into action, rappel into combat and swim into a skirmish. They are outfitted with protective body armor and a powerful bite. According to the U.S. Air Force, the bite from a German shepherd, one of the breeds used by the military, has a force between 400 and 700 pounds.

While its bite may be impressive, it is a military dog's exceptional ability to detect bombs that makes it indispensable to soldiers. They've spent millions of dollars trying to come up with the best bomb detection technology. After all that money and all that time devoted to it, they've come to the conclusion that in fact a dog and a handler best any technology on the ground today.

Last year, at a cost of more than $20,000 per unit, the SEALs bought four tactical vests for their dogs. The vests are reported to have infrared and night-vision cameras that allow handlers to use a monitor from up to 1,000 yards away to see what the dog sees. The handler is also able to communicate with the dog through a speaker on the vest. There are upwards of 3,000 dogs deployed and that using dogs in war is nothing new.

So when you are honoring fallen heroes from the war don't forget the four legged heroes who have given their lives to protect their humans and our country.

Happy Memorial Day to Everyone and thank you to all our veterans who gave their lives for our country - Peg Schaeffer

Contact us if you would like to help.

Peg Schaeffer, Sugarfoot Farm Rescue,
860 Sparksville Road
Columbia, KY 42728
Home telephone: 270-378-4521
Cell phone: 270-634-4675

This story was posted on 2013-05-26 06:45:25
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Sgt. MWD Beyco, one of thousands of canine veterans

2013-05-26 - 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY - Photo by Joe Hare.
Sgt MWD Beyco
posted in front of the Sgt. Dakota Meyer marker on the Historic Adair County Courthouse lawn in March of 2012, while in Columbia for a funeral. Sgt. MWD Beyco, is one of the many dogs who have seen combat service for the United States. Sgt. MWC Beyco is a decorated retired U.S. Marine combat veteran and hero. His civilian handler, Joe Sturm, accompanied him to Columbia. Clicking on ReadMore accesses today's Happy Tails column on dogs in military service, a special Memorial Day Column by Peg Schaeffer

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