… Military working dogs, that is.
There is probably no subject closer to my heart than military working dogs, our “four-legged warriors.”
Borrowing from one of my many articles on these noble creatures:
A dog is man’s best friend.
Dogs have been so from the earliest times.
They have also been some of man’s best companions and protectors during hunting, patrolling, in guarding his person and property — and in warfare.
“The Greeks and Romans probably were the first users of dogs in warfare. They sent formations of attack dogs, complete with spiked armor, to harass and cause general disturbance throughout enemy lines…”
Yes, these dogs have been in harm’s way for centuries, sharing the same risks as the troops they work with and protect.
They stand watch together…
A coalition security force member stands watch with his loyal partner in Logar province, Afghanistan. (U.S Army/Pfc. Coty M. Kuhn)
They “pull” patrol duty together…
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez and Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog search the perimeter of a compound for hidden threats in Helmand province, Afghanistan. (USMC/Cpl. Alejandro Pena.)
They even jump out of aircraft together…
A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. (USAF/Tech. (Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
But they also share quiet moments together…
U.S. Marine Cpl. Kyle Click, a 22-year-old improvised explosive device detection dog handler, shares a moment with his dog Windy while waiting to resume a security patrol. (USMC/Cpl. Reece Lodder)
Sadly, they are sometimes injured together…
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Lee, master at arms, and Petty Officer 1st Class Valdo, working dog, sleep on a hospital floor in Kandahar. Valdo and Lee both were wounded by shrapnel in a rocket propelled grenade attach in Badghis Province, Afghanistan. (USAF/Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
And sometimes, just like their human military brethren, they are killed in action.
It is difficult to find accurate data on how many military working dogs have been killed in recent wars, but the numbers certainly run in the hundreds, perhaps thousands.
Very recently, in November 2018, 7-year-old military working dog Maiko (below) was killed in action in Afghanistan. Maiko’s actions “directly saved the life of his handler.”
The service, heroic acts and sacrifices of and by these magnificent creatures do not go unrecognized.
They are honored for them and receive awards and decorations, are given “military ranks” — which they sometimes wear in the form of a patch on their body armor — and eventually retire from their faithful service.
In May 2018, four retired military working dogs “were honored with Medal of Courage awards on Capitol Hill…the highest honor for military dogs that displayed extraordinary valor and service to their country.”
Below, U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Bodge, 366th Security Forces Squadron commander, pins a Commendation Medal on retired military working dog Tanja, a detection and patrol dog retired after more than 11 years of service and five deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)
Now, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is planning to honor the nation’s brave and loyal military working dogs with a new booklet of 20 stamps (lead image). “Each block of four stamps features one stamp of each of the following breeds — German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherd — that commonly serve in America’s armed forces,” says the USPS.
The USPS adds:
The background of each stamp features a detail of a white star. A star appears in the center of each block. The stylized digital illustrations are in red, white, blue and gold to represent the American flag and patriotism. The art was created by DKNG Studios. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps.
Kudos to the USPS.