by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
In 2005, a sergeant in the U.S. Army was on patrol in Iraq when his canine soldier companion, Rocky, detected an enemy sniper lying in wait with an AK-47. The sniper fled into the bush, and Rocky gave chase, locating and holding the sniper at bay. The trapped sniper pointed his gun at the dog and fired, killing Rocky instantly. The sergeant, who had been Rocky's handler for three years took the loss very hard. They had been deployed together on numerous missions, and were never separated, even when they were on leave. The soldier took solace in the fact that his best friend died doing what he was trained to do, and by doing that, he saved the lives of the men in his unit.
War Dogs were first used in World War Two, and have been on the front lines for not only service men and women, but law enforcement as well. The events of 9/11 brought their responsibilities to a new level, which is why the Special Operation Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan found that dogs would be a big help in that theatre of battle. One soldier commented recently that he saw the dogs save lives many times by helping them avoid ambushes, and by detecting improvised explosive devices, IED’s, that remains one of the most deadliest devices the troops have had to contend with in the "war on terror."
Most dogs that retire, and make it home are usually adopted by their handlers, or another working dog agency. And what about the dogs that don’t make it home? As of last year, there were 58 dogs killed in action while serving the Special Operations Forces, and grave markers, and individual memorials are usually paid for by their handlers. While soldier handler doesn't have any problems paying for their canine friends memorials, they believe that their four-legged warriors deserve "official recognition". So in 2010, a small group of military and civilian advocates, began raising money and lobbying for a memorial which became the Special Operations Forces K9 Memorial Foundation in 2012. In early spring 2013 the group announced that an official memorial, the first in the nation specifically honoring SOF dog, would be placed at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina near Fort Bragg.
Today over 2,000 working dogs serve in U.S. military operations around the world with 600 of them in combat zones. It takes 6 to 12 months of military training to prepare these exceptional animals, and though a number of dogs try out for the military, only a small number make the cut. It is fitting that the breed of dog that was sculptured to stand at the canine memorial is a Belgian Malinois because it was one named "Cairo" that participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The granite memorial is etched with the names of the dogs killed in action and the date in which they were killed. A fine tribute to the canine warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice.
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