Military veterans honor the ‘war dogs’

 

DOVER— It was a dog day morning as the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850 unveiled its War Dog Memorial for Kent County Memorial Park on Saturday morning.

As he members noted, military dogs have had a long history in warfare.

The 5-foot black granite stone war dog memorial sits near the Huey Helicopter and carries 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.

In addition to Dover Air Force Base personnel, the dedication ceremony included Dover Police Department’s Pfc. Joe Bauer and K9 Gunner; New Castle County Police Department’s Officer First Class Cory Best and K9 Diesel; Milford Police Department’s Pfc. Timothy Webb and K9 Henk; and Wilmington Police Department’s Officer Robert Steele and K9 Neo.

The dogs and their handlers stood separately from the audience as they were acknowledged.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said the monument would forever honor the trained canines that have saved so many lives.

“It’s a great honor to participate in the dedication of this monument to the war dogs who faithfully served our country for many years,” he said.

“They serve today as parental guards and messengers. Just as throughout history, not only have these brave dogs been a man’s best friend but valued comrades, and today we honor that friendship in comradely.”

The memorial features the image of active duty Air Force dog handler Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg and Rico, a German shepherd.

SSgt. Spangenberg and Rico served in Afghanistan and were awarded the Bronze Star for detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“I truly couldn’t have completed and accomplished everything we had done on tour without him by my side,” SSgt. Spangenberg said.

But their bond wasn’t always so strong.

In 2008 SSgt. Spangenberg was accepted to K9 handler school earning “Top Dog honors.” Between 2011 and 2012 he served in Kusan Air Force Base in South Korea and was later assigned to Dover AFB, where he met Military War Dog Rico.

SSgt. Spangenberg said Rico was known as the meanest dog in the kennel.

“He was a jerk,” SSgt. Spangenberg said. “We didn’t click at all. Our bond grew when we were in Afghanistan.

Due to medial problems Rico is unable to continue to perform as an elite MWD and will be retiring in the next few months.

But SSgt. Spangenberg and Rico will still be joined at the hip in a different capacity.

“Once he retires he will be coming home with me,” SSgt. Spangenberg said. “It’s a great feeling.

“Once he came down with his health issues I was all about trying to give him a great home and the fact that we’ve been through so much together — I’m ecstatic that he gets to come home with me.”

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