Ceremony Recognizes Unsung Heroes: War Dogs

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The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1998 installation of the “Always Faithful” War Dog Memorial in front of the Veterinary Medical Center on the UT agricultural campus. An exact replica of the one unveiled at the United States Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery in Guam in 1994, the memorial honors the twenty-five war dogs that were killed in action liberating the island in 1944. The original memorial, which includes the names of the twenty-five dogs buried there, was developed to honor those dogs who, through their dedication and bravery, reduced the number of casualties while serving our country in times of war. Both memorials were sculpted by internationally known artist Susan Bahary.

During World War II, hundreds of dogs served overseas with the U.S. Marine Corps and Army ground troops. Dogs gave the Americans an extra edge. Assigned to the frontline units and always in the action, dogs and their handlers proved fearless and loyal fighters as they sniffed out snipers, explosives, and ambushes, saving countless American lives. Dr. Jim Thompson, dean of the veterinary college, said the ceremony helps recognize sacrifices many heroes made. “These military dogs work to save lives. They work with their handlers with complete unselfishness and loyalty. We, as Americans, need to be aware. We need to be thankful, and we need to show our appreciation.”

In addition to a program indoors that provided information about the war in Guam, Vietnam K9 teams, and war dogs in today’s military, the event at the War Dog Memorial included a bell ringing ceremony, laying of the wreath, 21-gun salute, Taps, and a helicopter flyover by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Speakers included representatives from the UT Center for the Study of Tennesseans and War, UTCVM, the Military Working Dog Heritage Museum, the Veterans Heritage Site Foundation in Knoxville, Always Faithful sculptress Susan Bahary, and others.

Staff Sargent Julian McDonald, U.S. Army (R), and Layka joined the ceremony. Layka saved the lives of fellow soldiers during an ambush in Afghanistan where Layka was shot four times by an AK-47. Despite her severe injuries, she attacked and subdued the shooter, saving the lives of the members of her handlers and other members of the military team. Layka’s leg had to be amputated. The 341st Training Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, honored Layka with a medal of heroism, and she was featured on the cover of National Geographic.

Maurice Acree, MD, donated the memorial in honor of his love of the Doberman Pincher and in recognition of the unique bond between dogs and humans. Dr. Acree passed away in 2013.