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Memorials salute war canine bravery

This Friday marks Veterans DayIt’s a time to celebrate and honor all of America’s veterans for their bravery, sacrifice and love for their countryThis week’s column pays tribute to our nation’s canine heroes. Dogs have been used by the U.S.

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military for more than a centuryThat includes WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle-Eastern wars.

Approximately 4,300 dogs served in Vietnam as guards, scouts and sentries. Records show about 350 dogs were killed in Vietnam, hundreds more injured.

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An estimated 297 of the 9,000 handlers were killedOnly 200 of the dogs came home.

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When soldiers finished their tours, another handler would be assigned to the dogs already stationed there. After the war ended and troops returned home, the dogs were deemed “excess equipment,” and left behind.

Many were euthanized, some were given to the South Vietnamese army and others were left to fend for themselvesMost handlers said leaving their dogs behind was their biggest regret. Dog handlers were understandably upset about that and urged Congress to change the rules and bring hero dogs back to America once their service in a war zone was over.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed legislation that now ensures all military dogs are treated like true veterans. In Wisconsin, there is the Highland Veterans Memorial Park.

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It is located near Neillsville, Clark County, about 50 miles southeast of Eau ClaireIt features a soldier holding an M-1 rifle and his dog’s harness as a tribute to canine war heroes.

The dog is a German shepherd, the most common breed that served in Vietnam. The sculpture is the work of LaCrosse sculptor Michael MartinoThe soldier is crouching down and one leg is in front of the other so there is forward motion while controlling the dogThey are bonded at the hip representing the teamwork and closeness of the soldier and his dog. Other breeds of dogs that have a history of service to the country are Airedale Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, and Saint Bernards. There is also the Vietnam War Dog Team Memorial at Motts Military Museum in Groveport, Ohio.

That’s near ColumbusIt features three black granite panels made of granite from the same area of India that provided the granite for the Vietnam Memorial in WashingtonD.C. The granite panels are inscribed with the names of the 4,244 dogs, including their tag numbers, that served in Nam and the 297 handlers who died in that war.

The panels were designed and constructed by the Columbus Art Memorial and the sculpture was created by Alan Cottrill from Zanesville. A dog and its handler were inseparable and their lives literally depended on each otherA good scout dog had an incredible sense of smell and could find a sniper in a tree, a deserted Viet Cong base, a complex of tunnels and a buried body.

Scout dogs were usually required to walk point, the most dangerous position in front of the rest of the unit. A trained dog’s sense of smell is 50-times better than that of a humanWar dogs are valued at over $150,000Considering the lives they saved, many would consider them as pricelessA handler said: “You go into your grandmother’s kitchen and smell her beef stew cooking in the crockpot.

A sentry dog smells the carrots, pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, onions and the meat.” Any handler will tell you, “there’s certainly an awareness of how important canines have been to the men and women of the military but people don’t fully understand it as well as they should.”

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