Honoring Four-Legged Heroes on Veterans Day

Posted by Scott Tunstall

In October 2019, a heroic Military Dog named Conan made headlines for helping American soldiers track down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. Conan played such a pivotal role in the raid, which resulted in Baghdadi's death, that he was congratulated by President Donald Trump and earned a visit to the White House. Although he was injured while carrying out the mission, the four-legged soldier has since recovered and is already back at work.

Conan's bravery reminds us of the vital contribution canines have made to the U.S. Military. Through three centuries of armed conflicts, dogs have stood side-by-side with the courageous men and women who fought for our country. Whether patrolling the perimeter of an airbase in Vietnam or detecting IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, these furry warriors proved to be invaluable assets on the field of battle.

As we commemorate the sacrifice millions of Americans have made in the name of freedom this Veterans Day, we also want to honor our heroic military canines. At these 11 war dog memorials, you can pay tribute to the furry warriors who gave their lives for their human brothers in arms. Note that the monuments located on active military bases only permit service animals, but each is worth a visit, with or without Fido.

Military Working Dog Teams National Monument

San Antonio, TX
Standing guard. Photo by Facebook.com/MWDmonument

Located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument honors canines who made the ultimate sacrifice during five American wars. Army Infantryman and Scout Dog Handler John Burnam designed the silicon bronze memorial, which shows a handler and the four most common military dog breeds: Doberman, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Belgian Malinois. The wall behind the statues lists the brave dog teams that served in theaters of war around the world. Inscribed on the granite platform below the statues is “Guardians of America’s Freedom.” Off to the side of the tribute is the “Not Forgotten Fountain,” a bronze sculpture of a seated soldier pouring a canteen of water into his helmet for his pal to drink.

Dogs and their owners are permitted to tour the monument with a valid state or government ID and a base pass issued at the East Lake Visitor Center.

Michigan War Dog Memorial

South Lyon, MI
A lasting tribute. Photo by Facebook.com/mwdmk9

Originally built in 1946 to commemorate the canine heroes responsible for saving 15,000 lives in World War II, the Michigan War Dog Memorial was refurbished in November 2011 after decades of neglect. Thanks to the hard work of veterans, dog club members and local citizens, the restored monument is now regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful tributes. A bronze German Shepherd sits atop an archway-shaped granite block bracketed on either side by faithful shepherd sentries. The headstones in front of the monument mark the final resting places of more than 20 Military Working Dogs.

The cemetery where the memorial is located is also home to the Vietnam K9 Memorial Wall, a stunning black granite wall inscribed with the names of the 4,234 dogs left behind after American troops withdrew from the Vietnam War in 1973. Classified as “equipment” by the U.S. Government, these brave companions were not allowed to come home with their handlers.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the memorial.

Sallie the Pit Bull

Gettysburg, PA
A soldier’s best friend. Photo by Facebook.com/SalliethePitBull

Near the foot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument at The Gettysburg National Military Park lies a memorial to Sallie, a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier who served as the regimental mascot from the time she was a four-week-old puppy until her death in February 1865. After being separated from her unit in the morning hours at the Battle of Gettysburg, Sallie found her way back to the Union lines at Oak Ridge that afternoon, where she faithfully stood guard over the dead and wounded of the 11th Infantry. Today, she still guards the men she served with from her elevated perch overlooking the battlefield.

Leashed dogs are permitted to visit the memorial and leave behind a biscuit for Sallie.

War Dog Memorial

Hartsdale, NY
Never forgotten. Photo by Facebook.com/HartsdalePetCemetery

Erected in 1923, the War Dog Memorial in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is dedicated to the 7,000 military canines who assisted wounded soldiers on the battlefield as Red Cross Mercy Dogs during World War I. The bronze shepherd standing at attention atop the 10-ton granite monument is draped in a Red Cross blanket with a soldier’s canteen and dented helmet resting near his front paws. The inscription on the monolith reads:

Dedicated to the memory of the war dog erected by public contribution by dog lovers. To man’s most faithful friend for the valiant services rendered in The World War 1914 - 1918.

The remains of Robby, a Belgian Malinois patrol and explosives detection dog, are buried at the base of the memorial. Robby was crucial in the passage of legislation that facilitated the option to adopt Military Working Dogs after they have retired from active duty.

Visiting dogs on a leash are permitted at the memorial site and to stroll the walkways of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

Service Dog War Memorial

Mobile, AL
Always remember. Photo by Vietnam Dog Handler Association

Located in the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, this tribute to military alert dogs was unveiled on Veterans Day 2008. The four-ton granite monument details a war dog and his handler guiding other soldiers on the field of battle. The marble back side lists the names of war canines and their handlers from Alabama. A placard engraved with paw prints and an actual soldier’s boot prints sits at the foot of the memorial. Part of the inscription on the face reads:

This monument is dedicated by the patriotic people of Alabama for all to bear witness in remembrance to these faithful war dogs and their Alabama handlers. Those who leave this place should remember the deeds and sacrifices of these four-legged soldiers.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds near the memorial.

National War Dog Cemetery

Apra Harbor, GU
A handler and his dog pay their respects. Photo by Facebook.com/Huntington-Beach-Canine-Association

Resting on the grounds of Naval Base Guam, the National War Dog Cemetery memorial depicts a Doberman Pinscher atop a monument that honors the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons. These courageous companions were tasked to search the island's cave system, detect landmines and booby traps, and guard sleeping Marines at the second battle of Guam during World War II. Of the 60 “Always Faithful” war dogs who landed on Guam in July 1944, 25 died and 20 others were wounded. Among the deceased was a Doberman named Cappy, who saved the lives of 250 Marines by warning them of an advancing Japanese force. The following words are inscribed below the names of the deceased Military Working Dogs:

Given in their memory and on behalf of the surviving men of the 2nd and 3rd Marine War Dog Platoons, many of whom owe their lives to the bravery and sacrifice of these gallant animals.

Only service animals are allowed on the base.

SOF K9 Memorial

Fort Bragg, NC
A trusted companion to the end. Photo by Facebook.com/SOF.K9.Memorial

Located at the US Army Airborne Special Operations Museum near Fort Bragg, the SOF K9 Memorial was unveiled in July 2013 as the only monument in the world solely dedicated to Special Operations canines. The life-sized statue of a Belgian Malinois wearing a full combat vest sits watch, surrounded by paver stones listing the names and countries of origin of more than 50 Special Operations dogs killed in action. The dedication inscription titled “Constant Vigilance” reads:

The bond between a SOF handler his K9 is eternal. Trusting each other in a nameless language. Here we honor our SOF K9s that have paid the ultimate price.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds, but only service dogs are allowed inside the museum.

Military Working Dog Tribute

Neillsville, WI
Together forever. Photo by The Highground Veterans Memorial Park

On June 2, 2018, the Military Working Dog Tribute was dedicated as part of the 155-acre Highground Veterans Memorial Park to honor all military dogs and their handlers who served in Vietnam and all wars past, present and future. The tribute features a crouching Scout Dog Handler and his German Shepherd preparing for battle. Inscribed in placards attached to the heart-shaped base are the names of veteran handlers and their canine companions, along with the following words:

Tribute to all working military dogs, scout, sentry, tracker and their handlers for their sacrifice and service in protecting the liberties of the United States of America.

Canine companions are allowed in the park, but they must be kept off the tributes and remain leashed at all times.

War Dog Memorial

Riverside, CA
Always by our side. Photo by Facebook.com/MarchFieldAirMuseum

The 16-foot-tall black granite War Dog Memorial that stands prominently at March Field Air Museum was dedicated in February 2000. It depicts an alert German Shepherd sitting at his handler’s feet and honors the memories of the trusted companions and courageous protectors who stood watch on the battlefield. Part of the dedication plaque reads:

They Protected Us On The Field of Battle. They Watch Over Our Eternal Rest. We Are Grateful.

At the monument’s base are individual tiles marked with a single black paw print that pay tribute to fallen canines from the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II.

Only service animals are permitted on the museum grounds.

SC War Dog Memorial

Columbia, SC
Watching over the watchers. Photo by Facebook.com/ScWarDogMemorial

Dedicated on Veterans Day 2015 in Columbia’s Memorial Park, the South Carolina War Dog Memorial features a bronze statue of a German Shepherd and his handler from the Vietnam War. The monument’s construction is owed to the tireless efforts of Vietnam vet and South Carolina native Johnny Mayo, whose life was spared in October 1970 when his scout dog Tiger triggered a tripwire while on patrol in the jungle. Ever since, Mayo has dedicated his life to educating people about the nearly 4,000 courageous war canines who perished in Vietnam.

Leashed dogs are welcome in Memorial Park.

Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy

North Olmsted, OH
Heroes come in all sizes. Photo by Facebook.com/smokywardog

In March 1944, Corporal Bill Wynn spent $6.44 to buy a scrawny four-pound Yorkshire Terrier found by one of his tent-mates in an abandoned foxhole near the U.S. Army Air Corps base in Nadzab, New Guinea. He named the tiny pup Smoky, and she remained by his side on 12 air rescue missions throughout World War II. On one such mission at an Allied airfield in the Philippines, Smoky carried a kite string tied to her collar through a 70-foot drainage pipe so soldiers could use the string to thread telephone lines and contact three squadrons under threat of attack by Japanese bombers. Her heroic efforts helped save the lives of 250 men and 40 planes.

Smoky also proved to be invaluable as one of the first therapy dogs, performing hundreds of tricks and providing needed laughter to sick and wounded soldiers during and after the war. She passed in 1957 at the age of 14. A memorial sculpture of her sitting in an infantry helmet was dedicated in 2005 at Rocky River Reservation in North Olmsted.

Leashed dogs can visit her statue and explore the surrounding forest trails.

For information on other special tributes to our furry friends, check out these international monuments that celebrate our love of dogs.

Have you visited a war dog memorial? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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