Dogs have been a constant companion for humankind for centuries, and they serve no less a useful purpose in the United States military. They've been used to hunt, sniff out dangerous substances, disable combatants, patrol, and much more. Despite their service and sacrifices, they're rarely honored outside of the individuals they worked directly with.
For the first time in U.S. history, an animal, the military working dog, will be the focus of a national monument. The new monument is expected to be opened during a public ceremony on October 28, 2013 at the Joint Base San Antonio.
The founder and inspiration for the national monument is John C. Burnam, a highly decorated Vietnam Infantry Veteran Scout Dog Handler and author of "Dog Tags of Courage" and "A Soldier's Best Friend." "As a Scout Dog handler in Vietnam I experienced firsthand how valuable these dogs are at saving soldiers' lives," said Burnam. "Yet, despite their value, when we pulled out of Vietnam the dogs were left behind. They were fellow soldiers and they were our best friends. They were heroes and they were left to die. So I was determined to get the dogs, of all wars, recognized at the highest level of our nation's government and then build them a magnificent national monument to ensure they would never be forgotten again."
The monument itself will consist of a granite pedestal on which stand four of the most prominent military working dog breeds. A nine-foot tall bronze dog handler represents all dog handlers that have served in the military through World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The seven bronze sculptures that are featured on the monument were crafted by Paula Slater, an internationally recognized artist.