At the chapter’s annual fundraiser on March 20 the veterans announced official plans for the memorial.
“One of my friends suggested it because the dogs play such an important role in the war effort and there isn’t a memorial for them anywhere in Delaware,” said Paul Davis, vice president of Chapter 850.
War dogs have played a large role in the U.S. military since World War I up to present day. Currently, Dover Air Force Base has eight of the more than 500 stationed at U.S. bases across the world.
“We use them on base where they detect odors for drugs and explosives at checkpoints and on aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Craig Eveland, a military working dog handler.
All U.S. military dogs are Belgian Malinois, bred and trained at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
“All the dogs go through a puppy training program where they are sent out with families, not to become pets, but to become acclimated to being around people, children and crowds,” Staff Sgt. Eveland said. “After that, they go to training where they become dual certified for both odor and patrol.”
By the time the dogs complete training and pass their tests, they are usually about 2 to 2½ years old.
“Just like people, dogs have different learning curves, so not all of them will be ready at any exact age,” Staff Sgt. Eveland said.
Upon passing their tests, military dogs are assigned to bases where they are paired with handlers. Staff Sgt. Eveland has been paired with his dog, Cuervo, for a few months now and said building a bond with the dog is very important.
“When we were first paired, I didn’t even work on commands for a week or two because I wanted him to get familiar with me,” he said. “And you don’t want to only respect the bond you have with your dog, but the bonds other dogs have with their own handlers.”
For this reason, Staff Sgt. Eveland said he doesn’t pet or play with other handlers’ dogs.
If Staff Sgt. Eveland and Cuervo were deployed, Cuervo’s responsibilities overseas most likely would be explosive detection, both in the field and at security check points.
Military dogs have been important in numerous wars ranging from ancient times to saving an estimated 10,000 soldiers’ lives in the Vietnam War to participating in the Navy SEALs’ hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2011.
“These dogs are all extremely smart and adaptable and they are really irreplaceable,” Staff Sgt. Eveland said.
A photo of a current military dog Rico will be used as a template for the 5-foot tall black granite memorial to be completed by Lloyd Memorials.
Rico is handled by Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg and both have served multiple tours in Afghanistan. They’ve earned a Bronze Star Medal for their work in finding IEDs — improvised explosive devices — that saved the lives of fellow service members.
“This is not only a tribute to the highly trained K-9s that have saved so many lives, but is also a recognition of their handlers from all branches and in all conflicts,” said Joe Startt Jr., Chapter 850 president.
The granite memorial will have the following inscription:
“They protected and watched over us at home and on the field of battle. We are forever grateful for their undying loyalty, devotion, and faithful service. They are not forgotten.”
The War Dog Memorial will be placed next the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter in Veterans Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover.
Contributions may be made to Kent County Chapter 850 with “war dog” in the memo area and mailed to VVA Chapter 850, c/o Ken Bodine, P.O. Box 1718, Dover, DE 19903. Email email@example.com for additional information.
Chapter 850 plans to dedicate the memorial in early July while the Vietnam Wall that Heals is scheduled to be on display at Veterans Memorial Park.