In 1942, March 13 was designated as an annual day to remember the duty and sacrifice of American war dogs. In 2000, the United States War Dogs Association (USWDA) was established by 5 dog handlers who served in Vietnam. The association was formed to honor the dogs of war; past, present and future.
The United States (US) has over 2,000 military working dogs deployed around the world. Military dogs face the same threats as their human handlers.
Every day they show courage and loyalty by protecting the military, women and our country. Very often, they are the ones going out into dangerous territory to search for hidden explosives and assess potential threats.
The vision of the founders of the USWDA was and continues to be to provide support throughout the life cycle of a military working dog and to further the distinguished history of its invaluable service. The need originally stemmed from Joseph J. White (Retired Vietnam Vet) who felt the need to recognize these “unappreciated” heroes who saved many lives in combat zones.
5,000 dogs cared for in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975; only about 250 were taken home.
The dogs were considered “team” and 2,700 were left behind. 1,600 of those that remained were slaughtered as they were deemed of no further value.
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The organization now has War Dogs Association of America Chapters working to support its vision and mission. Funds raised by the USWDA are used for a number of programs that support both working and retired dogs. Care packages are sent to currently deployed K9 teams. Provides working dogs with the necessary equipment both abroad and on American soil.
Other programs include facilitating a free prescription drug program for retired working dogs, recognizing retiring military working dogs with their award program, and providing funding for The Rainbow Bridge Memorializing Assistance Program. K-9 Heroes.
Chapters assist the national organization with transporting veteran war dogs back to the US after their service, finding homes for retired K9s, and training service dogs for veterans with one or more medical conditions incapacitating.
Over the past 21 years, the organization has shipped more than 30,000 care packages to dog handlers abroad and currently supports 1,000 retired military working dogs through its prescription program. You can learn more about the USWDA and its work by visiting: uswardogs.org.
Perhaps the most important work done has been and continues to be that of educating the public about the service and sacrifice of military working dogs. In 2006, when many military working dogs were beginning to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, the USWDA Memorial was dedicated.
Locally, there is a memorial that was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Baader at Delaware’s Water Gap Cemetery. The statue is made of 100% cast stone and depicts a war dog with the military handler on it.
On March 13, the Ruff & Ready US K-9 Corps will hold a memorial service honoring the duty and sacrifice of American war dogs at Delaware’s Water Gap Cemetery.
The event will take place from 1 pm to 3 pm where a US Army veteran war dog handler and his service dog will lay a wreath during the ceremony. All veterans who have had experiences with canine service animals are invited to share their memories. There is no charge, but donations are welcome. The event is being organized by the Delaware Water Gap Cemetery Association. The event will take place rain or shine.
— Debbie Kulick writes a weekly news column for the Pocono Record and is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as an EMT.