Memorial Day is a holiday to honor our fallen military soldiers, the brave men and women who gave their lives defending our country in armed services. It has also been referred to as Decorating Day, a day in which many families clean off and decorate the graves of their ancestors with flags or military remembrances.

This year let’s not forget the brave military dogs and dog teams who have also given their lives while in service. Memorial Day is a holiday to remember and thank all our fallen veterans, whether on two legs or four.

The History of Military Dog Service 

Dogs have been used in military service as far back as the days of the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians and during the Roman Empire. They’ve undergone service as messengers, guards, lookouts, rescue teams and for providing comfort to the injured. The first use of dogs in U.S. military goes back to wars in the 1800’s, including the Civil War.

Dogs were used in great numbers during World War I and II, particularly by overseas countries, and showed great value. During the Gulf War, the U.S. used 88 teams of dogs for various tactical assignments, including explosive sniffing, rescue missions and finding drugs. The various branches of the military established the K-9 Corp, the Army’s Search & Rescue K-9s, the Marine’s Devil Dogs, the Army’s Dog Platoons, etc.

Present Day Memorials

Today there are currently around 2,700 military dog and handler teams on active duty. The number of dogs who have lost their lives is unknown, but at the dedication service of the war dog memorial at Camp Pendleton in California, the names of more than 400 dog teams were read.

There are memorials throughout the U.S. to honor military dogs including the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The memorial honors dogs who served in all five branches of the military, in all wars since WWII. It bears the inscription:

“Dedicated to all U.S. Military Working Dog Handlers and their beloved dogs who defend America from harm, defeat the enemy, and save lives.”

The War Dog Cemetery on U.S. Naval Base Guam, located on Apra Harbor, Guam, includes a monument with a dog known as Kurt, a Doberman, who saved the lives of 250 Marines before becoming the first military dog to die on Guam during WWII. The inscription reads:

“25 Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps. – SEMPER FIDELIS

Kiurt, Yonnie, Koko, Bunkie, Skipper, Poncho, Tubby, Hobo Ni, Prince, Fritz, Emmy, Missy, Cappy, Duke, Max, Blitz, Arno, Silver, Brockie, Bursch, Pepper, Ludwig, Rickey, Tam (buried at sea off Asan Point).

Given in their memory and on behalf of the surviving men of the 2nd and 3rd marine war dogs platoons, many of whom owe their lives to the bravery and sacrifice of these gallant animals.”

Semper Fi, indeed. We honor you and all the brave who have died for this country.

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