Today, as we remember our fallen military members who valiantly gave their lives to protect our freedom, let’s also commemorate our four-legged force and their handlers that have done the same. Officially, “military working dogs,” these canines have saved countless lives by sniffing out IEDs and weapon caches in Iraq and Afghanistan, and alerting to danger along the way in Vietnam. Since the dogs first entered military service in 1942, they have acted with the same levels of courage, dedication and loyalty as their human counterparts.
Designated as “equipment” by the military (although this is being challenged), they are considered and treated as anything but. “The dogs are…assigned a rank one step higher than their handler to enforce the idea that the dogs need to be treated with respect,” Marine officials told the Marine Corps Times. From handler all the way up to the top brass of the military, approbation of their worth is ubiquitous.
Gen. David Petraeus said:
“The capability they (Military Working Dogs) bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory. Our Army (and military) would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource.”
To handlers, MWDs are more than just a valuable resource to the military. The bond that’s formed between the two is truly unsurpassed and makes for some incredibly heartrending stories. Following the unexpected death of his MWD, Rony, Staff Sgt. Robert Calhoun said:
"All I ever wanted was to save lives and contribute to the mission success," Calhoun said. "Rony saved lives. Rony saved my life when we went into an abandoned compound, and he found a 155-round before I stepped on the pressure plate. Before we left, we were awarded the Bronze Star. He's the reason--he brought us home."
"I had the honor of standing by his side, holding his paw, softly sighing as his heart stopped beating," he said. "He's moved on and is at his true master's side. I'll always cherish the moments we had together and know for a moment in time we were untouchable. I'd say this to Rony, F547: thank you for your commitment, loyalty and trust. You will always be in my heart, and I will always love you. Rest in peace, my little warrior."
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