Military Service Dogs—They Are Veterans Too
There is an unsung hero in the military—a hero who trains sometimes as hard as a soldier, works longer hours, doesn’t wear a vest, ACH, or even carry a weapon. However, over the years, many of them have risked their lives in order to save soldiers. They have been there alongside the wounded and injured. They have been loyal, disciplined, and dedicated beyond belief. They don’t even get paid, yet each and every day, they are there and will fight for us the same as any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine would. Who are they? They are the military service dogs! They are veterans too. They too have risked their lives and fought for freedom. Even though they don’t get paid or even take leave, they still perform dangerous jobs each and every day. One of the most important jobs they do is be a companion for wounded and ill service members. They are saving lives even though they don’t know it. Their loyalty is strong beyond belief and is only matched by their strength and courage.
The Duties of Military Service Dogs
The job of a military service dog is never done. They stand ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to find the enemy, find IEDs, find weapons, even find a soldier who is wounded or KIA. They train from an early age. These dogs are taught so many different things to look for. They protect an area with their life. I myself have had an opportunity to serve twice with service dogs—once in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. I will say this; in both tours, the dogs saved lives. These military service dogs are in the same category as military special forces.
In 2009 in Iraq, our dogs found IEDs on countless occasions. We used them to search culverts and vehicles, and if it wasn’t for their strong noses and discipline, many lives would have been lost. They never complained about what time they were woken up. This didn’t matter to them. They did their job the same as any human would, and they did extremely well.
In 2012 in Afghanistan, our dog found a hole dug into the floor of the interpreters’ tent. There were items there that were going to be used to make a bomb, and if the dog had not found that, many soldiers on that FOB would have died. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping to train service dogs that were to be used to find IEDs. The amount of training it takes is more than words can explain. The service dogs don’t care what the weather is or what they wear. They are always ready, disciplined, and courageous. They risk their lives and don’t even know it. They smell, hear, and see danger long before any soldier ever will. They don’t care about the size of the enemy; they will always defend the soldiers they are assigned to.
Military Service Dogs Are Great Companions
One role that a service dog does so very well is be a companion to their veteran or service member. No matter the breed—a lab, German Shepard, Rottweiler, or any other—these dogs are there to help soldiers through the tough times of being wounded, losing a limb, or even losing eye sight. They are there no matter what the circumstances are. They have stayed loyal and committed. It is a proven fact that military service dogs continue to prevent suicides for their assigned veterans. I have been at Walter Reed recovering from my own injuries, and I have heard the stories and witnessed the service dogs with their service members. Their loyalty and dedication to duty definitely speaks for itself.
I would like to pass on my many thanks to the people who spend countless hours training these dogs to be the companions that they are to service members. They have prevented many deaths and injuries to service members and are such valuable assets, whether they are searching a car or helping a wounded service member cross a street. They too are veterans and will always be there for us. We all owe a deep appreciation to all service members for their dedication and commitment as well. To each of you and the dogs that you train, my heartfelt “thank you” goes out!