Memorial Day is a holiday dedicated to remembering those who served in the armed forces and didn’t make it back home. While we honor the humans that gave everything for their loved ones and their country, we sometimes forget to honor the four-legged service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Many military dogs do work that places them in great danger, and though they may not understand all the implications of what they’re doing, they build strong bonds with their handlers and fellow soldiers, and they’d happily lay down their lives for their companions.
The brave, selfless, and devoted military dogs who are killed in action while protecting our troops deserve to be honored along with the human soldiers who have fallen in battle. Take some time to remember and thank them as you enjoy this Memorial Day.
Here are just a few of the military dogs killed in action who should be celebrated.
When Marine Lance Corporal Alfredo Salazar was paired up with Kaiser, a German Shepherd Dog, in the days of the Vietnam War, he quickly formed a strong bond with the pup, as did many members of their camp.
Salazar and Kaiser were leading a patrol near a village as a scout team when they found themselves ambushed. Grenades and bullets flew, and since Kaiser was out in front of the patrol to detect danger, he was quickly hit.
Salazar ran to Kaiser, and the pup tried to lick his hand one last time before dying in his arms. The whole patrol felt the loss of their canine brother, and they buried him under a tree near the camp and renamed the location Camp Kaiser.
After so many operations and patrols together, Salazar said it was like losing one of the closest friends he ever had. Rest in peace, Kaiser.
Corporal Kory Wiens wasn’t just a handler for Cooper, a Labrador Retriever bomb sniffing dog. He was Cooper’s best friend, and even planned to adopt the pup when they were able to return to civilian life together. Unfortunately, that day never came.
While on patrol in Iraq in 2007, Wiens and Cooper were killed by an improvised explosive device. When Wiens’s personal items were returned to his family, they were surprised by the number of dog toys he kept.
In life, Wiens and Cooper were inseparable, and they remained that way even in death. Their ashes were buried together in Wiens’s hometown, and an infantry post dedicated a dog park to them in Colorado.
Hopefully, Corporal Wiens and Cooper Dog Park will bring some joy to dogs and humans who also share a special bond. That would be a fitting tribute.
Sallie Ann Jarrett
Sallie Ann Jarrett was an English Bull Terrier who served as the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry during the American Civil War.
She was known to lead the charge into battle and bark furiously at the enemy. Sallie even marched before President Abraham Lincoln.
She accompanied her infantry into many battles and proved herself at Gettysburg when she was separated from her regiment during a Union retreat. She was found days later, still guarding her dead and wounded soldier companions.
Unfortunately, Sallie was later killed by a bullet as the Union advanced at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia. Even though her fellow troops were under heavy fire, they put down their guns in the middle of battle to bury Sallie on the spot.
After the war, the surviving members of the 11th included a bronze statue of Sallie in their monument at Gettysburg. It’s a fitting tribute for a dog who refused to leave her friends, even if it meant risking her life.
During World War II, several dogs were surrendered by civilian families and donated to the war effort. They were given to the Marine Corps, along with several dogs who were transferred from the Army.
All of the Marine Corps dogs had to report to the Dog Detachment Training Center for training before being deployed. Rolo, a Doberman Pinscher was one of those dogs.
His training notes say that he was high spirited and that he needed a firm hand in training, but he was called the best “point” dog in his unit by soldiers, as he was highly skilled at pointing out enemy positions.
During a patrol, Rolo pointed out an enemy position. Then he hurled himself into battle, attacking and causing confusion in their ranks before returning when his handler whistled. Rolo drew the enemy’s machine gun fire, which distracted them from the position of some of Rolo’s human companions.
Sadly, Rolo was hit by a bullet and died. He was only two years old, and he happened to be born on Dec. 7th, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the United States into the war.
All The Dogs Left Behind
Military dogs have served the United States in many wars, and they haven’t always been given the honor they deserve.
The United States government has often classified these dogs as military equipment. For dogs who survived combat, it wasn’t considered worthwhile to treat them, ship them home, and find families for them.
This was particularly horrific after the Vietnam War where about 4,000 dogs served, 350 were killed in action, and only 200 were brought back to the United States. The rest were left behind.
But those who served with Military dogs knew they deserved better, as did citizens who were grateful for their service. Because of that, things have steadily improved and changed a good deal.
Dogs are now often given military ranks, and sometimes they even outrank their handlers. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013 was signed into law, which allows the military to transfer retired dogs to locations for adoption and provide them with veterinary care.
Memorial Day is a time for us to honor our fallen heroes. Maybe the best way to do that is by making things better for service members who survive and come home. Hopefully we can continue to improve our care of both human and canine soldiers as we remember the dead.
Which other military dogs deserve to be honored on Memorial Day? Let us know in the comments below!