The Canine Heroes of Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, anyone who loves dogs should give a shout-out to Laura Miller and Dave Nielson, a retired Ranger.  They are co-founders, along with Chuck Yerry, of the SOFK9Memorial Foundation.  When thinking about those who have sacrificed their lives to keep Americans safe, people should also consider the canine soldiers killed in action. 

Dave told American Thinker, "My children have a dad because of my canine partner, Pepper.  We can actually multiply that by sixty-two, the number of those in my unit.  In this unit we lost twenty-two dogs, while they searched for either the enemy or a bomb."

Once they decided to start the foundation, three phases were established.  Phase I to create a memorial in honor of the fallen dogs killed while engaging the enemy.  The statue and museum are located at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville, just outside of Fort Bragg, N.C.  In addition, plaques representing Special Operations dogs are placed at the base of the statue and includes the dogs' names, the countries they served, and the years and theaters they were killed in.

Because the handlers needed to come to grips with losing their beloved partner, Phase II was established.  The foundation assists the human partners to purchase at their home station, memorial plaques, photos, paintings, headstones, or anything else the handler would like for his partner.  Laura knew that the "cost of these local memorials can range from $300 to upwards of $1,000 depending on the tribute.  We knew that they were paying the amount out of their own pockets, so we decided to help pay for them."

The third phase will consist of a permanent display in the museum showcasing past and present SOF handlers and their dogs.  It will have an actual combat kit that the dogs wear and photos of the dogs "just being dogs" and will show the bond between the dog and the handler.  This display will not only honor the fallen, but appreciate the dogs currently in the fight.

Laura also has written a children's book, How I Became a K-9 Commando.  She explained, "Special Operations Forces (SOF) multi-purpose canines (MPC) are not traditional military working dogs (MWD).  Unlike traditional MWDs that have been around since the First World War, SOF MPCs have only been around since 1998 and became well known around 2005.  They are not gate guards, narcotic-detectors, or single-purpose dogs with a few months of training, but usually train for years before they deploy.  They are typically patrol and explosive detection dogs that can work off-leash, and make "decisions" without a handler instructing their every move.  The dogs are loved and are valuable assets to the unit and men."

Dave is an example of many who lost their dogs while trying to find the enemy.  His dog, Pepper, a Belgian Malinois, in 2006 was sent to find an Iraqi hiding in the banks of the Tiberius River.  Stun guns, grenades, and being shot at did have the terrorist surface.  Dave vividly remembers: "When I sent her in, she stopped and looked right at me for a second or two.  She flushed him out and went into the river after him.  After looking for hours, we never found her.  This is non-lethal force, because it is a way to capture someone without having our soldiers or the enemy killed.  It is time slowing down as the bad guy freezes for a second after seeing the dog running at them."

He considers her his best friend.  "She would do anything for me.  I have this recurring dream of Pepper running back and forth, looking up at the helicopter waiting to be picked up.  Eventually, after going into therapy, I found I had PTSD.  It was traced back to that night when all my emotions stopped."

Laura and Dave want Americans to understand that the number of dogs killed in action is higher in Special Operations than with traditional working dogs.  They hope people will take a moment to remember these special canines that sacrificed their lives during the War on Terror.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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