Four Monuments Honoring 4-Legged US War Heroes
Memorial Day is a time to honor the memory of those who bravely gave their lives for their country – and that should include four-legged as well as two-legged war heroes. Here are some monuments around the United States that pay tribute to the many military working dogs who bravely served their country.
1. United States War Dogs Memorial (New Jersey)
Located at the entrance to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel, N.J., this bronze statue of a Vietnam War soldier kneeling beside his loyal four-legged partner was funded and dedicated by the United States War Dogs Association in 2006. Sculptor Bruce Lindsay created the statue, which was the first official memorial in the United States to honor military dogs.
“Military canines make contributions every day while they serve in our military,” the association’s president, Ron Aiello, a former Marine scout dog handler and Vietnam veteran, said in 2006. “They are hardworking and do a great job of saving the lives of their handlers and the troops who walk in their footsteps.”
What makes this and other memorials especially heartrending is that most of the life-saving hero dogs that served during the Vietnam War never made it home alive.
2. US Military Working Dog Teams National Monument (Texas)
This monument, dedicated in 2013, is open to the public at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland in Texas. It depicts a soldier standing alongside the four most common breeds of military dogs since World War II: a Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Belgian Malinois. The pedestal is inscribed, “Guardians of America’s Freedom.”
The monument also includes the “Not Forgotten Fountain.” This is a bronze statue of a soldier pouring water from a canteen into his helmet for his partner, the German Shepherd sitting by his side.
“These dogs were patriots just as much as anybody else who served,” military dog handler John Baker, whose unit, 212th Military Police Company Detachment A, was known as “Hell on Paws,” told Reuters when the monument was unveiled.
JBSA-Lackland is the home of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog program, the world’s largest training center for military dogs and handlers. The center has been training dogs for all branches of the military since 1958.
3. Sgt. Stubby Statue (New York)
Although he was the most decorated war dog in U.S. history and the only military dog ever promoted to sergeant, it took over 100 years for Sgt. Stubby to be honored with a monument. In 2018, “Stubby Salutes,” a life-size statue of the hero dog, was dedicated in Middletown, Conn. The original casting remains there, and the statue is now in the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in New York City.
After Stubby was rescued in 1917 on a Yale University field by John Robert Conroy, a soldier who was training for World War I combat, Conroy smuggled his dog aboard his ship with him when he was deployed to France. During 17 battles on the Western Front, Stubby saved countless lives by alerting troops when he smelled mustard gas or heard artillery shells. He was able to crawl under barbed wire fences to reach injured soldiers and remained beside them until help arrived. He captured a German spy by the seat of his pants. And, as a plaque on his statue says, Stubby “was a morale booster.”
Conroy’s family had tried for 30 years to get a monument dedicated to Stubby, according to the Associated Press. The statue was created by artist Susan Bahary. Along with Stubby’s likeness, Bahary said she wanted “to capture that beautiful spirit. That courage. His bravery. His ability to cheer up the troops both on the battlefield and at home.”
4. Military Working Dog Tribute (Wisconsin)
This life-sized bronze sculpture inside Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisc., depicts a soldier crouched beside his partner, a German shepherd, with one hand holding a rifle and the other holding the dog’s harness. Plaques display the names of handlers and their dogs.
The memorial “is in recognition of the military working dogs that have graced the soldiers’ lives who worked in combat with these brothers in arms,” according to the official website. Dedicated in 2018, it was created by Michael Martino and conceived by a group of Vietnam War veterans.
More War Dog Monuments
You can find a comprehensive list of war dog memorials across the country on the Vietnam Dog Handler Association’s website.
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal M. Jeffers
This story was originally published on Care2.com.