Families caring for service members on four legs - FOX 13 News

Families caring for service members on four legs

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

As we prepare to remember the men and women who died serving in the armed forces this weekend, work is underway on a new memorial to honor the four-legged military members we don't hear about often.

It'll be called the "U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument."

It's a bronze sculpture to be dedicated next October at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas.

America's military dogs have been serving since WWI, when "Sgt. Stubby" helped patrol the Western front of the European theater.

A shepherd mix named "Chips" traveled with General Patton's army during the war.

That's when the U.S. Army launched the K-9 Corps, and dogs officially became part of military operations.

Until the year 2000, most military dogs were euthanized when their service was over. In fact, thousands died at the end of the Vietnam War.

Some were released into the jungle by handlers who couldn't bear to see their faithful companions destroyed.

President Bill Clinton signed a bill making adoption an option for America's military dogs, and today more of them are being placed in homes after they're retired.

Many of the dogs are adopted by their military handlers, who have a special bond with their canine colleagues.

It's a relationship MacDill Air Force Base Airman Brett Carson knows firsthand.

Carson is a canine handler and patrolman at MacDill, where one of the dogs he patrolled with, Military Working Dog (MWD) Jago, is now family pet Jago.

"People have done great things overseas for our country but it's also pretty cool to have an animal that did that for our country as well," said Carson's wife, Mercedes.

Airman Carson was never deployed with Jago, but he knows his history.

MWD Jago was deployed to Iraq twice, and to Afghanistan, where military dogs have saved countless lives by sniffing out improvised explosive devices, better known as IED's.

Carson says he doesn't know specifics, but Jago did save lives.

"I don't know the exact weights that he found, or what exactly he found, but I know he does have real-world finds," Carson said.

Soldiers trust their dogs, and their dogs trust them, doing pretty much anything asked of them -- which you can see in a now-famous photo of a serviceman and his dog parachuting out of the back of a Chinook helicopter.

I asked Airman Carson if these dogs are brave.

"Oh absolutely. I personally don't want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and I'm quite certain he doesn't either, but he will," said Carson.

Their loyalty inspires people like Debbie Kandoll of Military Working Dog Adoptions. She has adopted four retired military dogs and says there's something about them that you simply can't appreciate until you have one.

"They are true warriors in every sense of the word and true heroes in every sense of the word," Kandoll said.

Kandoll's organization helps match adopters and dogs, often paying their way home if they're retired overseas.

She points out that despite passage last year of the "Canine Members of the Armed Service Act," dogs are still classified as equipment, and not true members of the U.S. military.

"We feel that any dog that's protected and saved numerous troop lives deserves the best forever home as long as they're here on this earth," Kandoll said.

"They deserve what our two-legged veterans deserve," she said.

While Jago is enjoying his well-deserved retirement, he'll still work for his favorite kong. But age and years of deployment are catching up: he's blind in one eye, and has three fused discs in his back.

The Carson's say they'll do what they can to make him comfortable, honored that this "war dog" now belongs to them.

"My wife and I are just glad that we can give him a nice retirement," Carson said.

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To find out more about adopting a former military dog: http://www.militaryworkingdogadoptions.com/

To see the military dog memorial under construction:
http://www.jbmf.us/

 

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