There were around 5,000 military dogs that served alongside U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. However, when the war was over, the dogs were labeled “excess equipment.” This meant that the dogs were euthanized, given away to the Vietnamese army, or simply abandoned. Finally, the canine heroes of Vietnam are finally receiving the recognition they so deserve. The new memorial in Wisconsin is a life-size bronze soldier holding an M-1 rifle and a dog harness. Next to the soldier is a German Shepard.
Navy corpsman David Backstrom was the first to suggest the memorial seven years ago. Backstrom made a 20-minute presentation, a committee was formed, and around $200,000 was raised to make the memorial a reality.
The sculptor Michael Martino was chosen from a pool of artists by a committee made up of veterans, reported USA Today. The original concept behind the sculpture is based on the close bond between the soldier and dog.
“I had the soldier kind of crouching down and one leg in front of the other so there’s forward motion while controlling the dog. They’re bonded at the hip … The idea was the teamwork and closeness of the soldier and dog. It’s kind of an inseparable bond.”
The dedication ceremony is going to take place on Saturday. Vietnam veterans, military dog handlers, and others from the working dog community are expected to attend.
Military dogs played an important role in many soldiers’ lives during the Vietnam War. The dogs’ keen sense of smell and instincts helped soldiers navigate the battlefield as they patrolled or guarded important areas.
Even though the dogs served the country, many were abandoned or given away to the Vietnam army after the war. Modern military dogs are not mistreated this way, which is ensured by a law signed by Bill Clinton in 1992. All dogs are treated as veterans after their service, not as “excess equipment” like in the Vietnam era.
Military dogs have held many important posts in the military throughout history. Their work has included finding enemies, working as sentries, and even delivering messages during the Civil War and World War I. And in many cases, the dogs saved lives. The News and Sentinel reported that the military dogs in Vietnam saved thousands of lives.
The new memorial will ensure that the thousands of dogs that saved thousands of lives are remembered and honored for their service. Military personnel are thankful that the memorial is finally being installed, too, as some veteran dog handlers still vividly remember the dogs that worked alongside them.