PHOTO: NJVVMF War Dog Memorial: The War Dogs Memorial, designed by sculptor Bruce Lindsay, consists of a bronze statue of a kneeling soldier and his dog, set on a black granite base. It pays tribute to military working dogs and their handlers — past, present and future.
Holmdel, NJ — The United States War Dogs Association will rededicate the United States War Dogs Memorial Saturday, June 11 at 11 a.m., on its 10th anniversary. The Memorial is located on the grounds of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, 1 Memorial Lane, Holmdel, Exit 116 off the Garden State Parkway. The Memorial was first dedicated on June 10, 2006, and honors the nation’s war dogs and their handlers.
Since World War I, tens of thousands of dogs have served in the United States Armed Forces alongside their handlers in K-9 units. Thousands of dogs have died in combat, saving the lives of military troops. According to the American Humane Association, each military working dog saves between 150-200 lives during their service, and according to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are approximately 2,700 active-duty military working dogs in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are deployed around the world, with a large number serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. War Dogs Association President Ron Aiello was one of the first of 30 Marine Scout Dog Teams to be deployed to Vietnam in 1966. Ron and his German Shepherd Scout Dog, Stormy, trained together for three months before going to Vietnam and being stationed in Da Nang.
“Stormy was a very docile dog and was always around the troops,” said Ron. “She was almost like a therapy dog, providing comfort for the Marines around her.”
When Ron’s tour was up, he had to leave Stormy in the care of another handler. To this day he still doesn’t know what happened to her.
“Approximately 2,700 war dogs were turned over to the South Vietnamese Army, a little over 300 were killed in action, 1,300 were euthanized or abandoned, and I’ve been told that 200 were taken out of the country,” said Ron. “Things have changed and we have adoption and retirement options for military dogs like the ones provided by our organization and others like it.”
It is estimated that military working dogs saved 10,000 lives during the Vietnam War.
The War Dogs Memorial, designed by sculptor Bruce Lindsay, consists of a bronze statue of a kneeling soldier and his dog, set on a black granite base. It pays tribute to military working dogs and their handlers — past, present and future.
“We want to make sure people remember Vietnam and what happened to the dogs there,” said Ron. “This rededication is a reminder of the past and an effort to make sure what happened in Vietnam doesn’t happen in any other conflict.
Speakers for the ceremony will include retired Col. Steve Abel, Commissioner for Veterans Affairs, Richard A. Vargus, Department of the Army Military Working Dog Program, Ron Aiello, and special guest speaker Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator from New Jersey. There will be a presentation of wreaths during the ceremony and an In Memory program recognizing New Jersey dog handlers killed in action.
A military working dog demonstration by joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst will take place after the ceremony. There will also be a book signing and presentation by John Burnam, author of Dog Tags of Courage, A Soldier’s Best Friend and Canine Warrior, and a presentation on dealing with medications for retired military working dogs by Mark Taylor, owner/pharmacist of CUREXA National Pharmacy, the official pharmacy of the U.S. War Dogs Association. These presentations will be held in the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Museum and Educational Center.