Honor Our Military Dogs:  March 13th is K9 Veterans Day

“The guard dog was incorruptible; the police dog dependable; the messenger dog reliable. The human watchman might be bought; not so the dog. The soldier sentinel might fall asleep; never the dog. The battlefield runner might fail … but not the dog, to his last breath would follow the line of duty.” – Ernest Harold Baynes, Author of Animal Heroes of the Great War

The United States K9 Corps was created on March 13, 1942. Since that day, more than 30,000 brave dogs have helped save and protect our country. Although K9 Veterans Day is not an official holiday, it was initiated to commemorate all military dogs. Joe White, a Vietnam War Veteran as well as a K9 handler and trainer, initiated K9 Veterans Day. Although he died in 2009, his wife continues his cause to get nationwide recognition of this special day.

Although the use of dogs in the military didn’t take place in America until World War II, the United States first took notice of the European use of canines in the military during World War I. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor when men were joining the armed forces to serve our country, women became driven to help the cause as well. Alene Erlanger, one of these women, initiated Dogs for Defense. The group, which also consisted of several breeders, trained dogs for military use.

In November 1942 the first group of dogs were sent to North Africa. As World War II continued, demands were great for more military dogs. During the war more than 10,000 dogs were trained. Because Dogs for Defense found themselves unable to keep up with the demand, the Remount Branch, Services Installations Divisions of the Army began training the dogs.

One of the most well-known is Stubby, possibly the only military dog to receive the rank of sergeant. The most decorated dog of World War I, Sergeant Stubby, a bulldog mix, is considered the original war dog. He served with Colonel Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment in France. During his 18 months there, he warned his unit about artillery shells and gas attacks and caught a German spy. Stubby was injured twice and was personally decorated by General Pershing.

During the Vietnam War, where more than 4,000 dogs were deployed, scout dogs saved more than 2,000 lives. Because they proved to be such a valuable asset to the military, bounties of up to $20,000 were placed on their heads.

The 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio trains and assigns all dogs in the Military War Dog Program. After their training, the military dogs are then shipped to various military bases worldwide. At present time, there are nearly 3,000 courageous dogs serving in all branches of the U.S. Military.

Today, more than ever, military dogs are guarding our homeland, helping to keep our country, and what we stand for, safe. From Afghanistan to Ground Zero, military dogs are working every day with police, customs, border patrols, airports and the Secret Service wherever they are needed to protect our nation. Veterans Commemoratives (vetcom.com) is proud to honor these canine heroes.

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