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Military dogs would be honored with holiday if resolution passes

Monday, December 17, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Military and other War on Terror dogs would be honored and March 13 would be designated as K-9 Veterans Day in Virginia under a House joint resolution that has been prefiled for the 2013 General Assembly session.

Several local veterans said they support or have no problem with that idea.

State Sen. Bill Stanley is one of the chief co-patrons of the proposed resolution, according to the General Assembly website. Stanley, R-Glade Hill, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ryan Zehr of Ridgeway, who served tours of duty in Iraq in 2003-04 and 2006-07, said he knew of units in which military dogs sniffed out bombs and other explosive devices. In some cases the dogs were killed preventing the deaths of Army soldiers, he said.

Most soldiers considered the dogs to be part of the family and the unit, added Zehr, who is the son of Francis Zehr, a member of the Henry County School Board and a former county supervisor.

David Kipfinger, Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 commander and commander of the Veterans Honor Guard of Martinsville and Henry County, said military dogs were “very useful” in sniffing out things when he served in the Army during the Korean conflict and Vietnam War.

“I think that’s great,” he said of the proposed resolution. “They (dogs) were part of the service in helping the war effort. Many of them got wounded.”

Curtis Millner Sr., third vice commander of the American Legion 6th District and past commander of Homer Dillard Post 78, said he understands from people who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq that military dogs “have saved quite a few lives.”

“As such, I would see nothing wrong with” the proposed resolution, he added.

Milliner represents the Iriswood District on the Henry County School Board.

The proposed resolution was introduced by Del. John A. Cox, R-Ashland, and chief co-patrons are Del. Richard L. Anderson, R-Woodbridge, in the House and Stanley in the Senate.

Among the points the proposed resolution makes are:

• Thousands of dogs have served with honor, dignity and valor throughout the nation’s history.

• In January 1942, one month after the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, “Dogs of Defense” was established by a group of individuals urging civilian dog owners to donate their K-9 pets to the war effort to serve as sentry, scout, patrol, messenger and mine dogs.

• On March 13, 1942, Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson authorized the Quartermaster General to include dogs in the war effort.

• In August 1942 the first War Dog Reception and Training Center was established at Front Royal, Va. Later that fall, a K-9 Quartermaster Corps training center was created at Fort Robinson, Neb.

• Dogs accepted into the training program underwent a rigorous eight- to 12-week training program that focused on basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” and exposed the dogs to muzzles, gas masks, gunfire and riding in vehicles.

• Once a dog passed basic training, it was sent to one of four specialized training programs to become a sentry dog, scout or patrol dog, messenger dog or mine dog.

• In 1944, the U.S. Department of War created Quartermaster War Dog Platoons, seven in Europe and eight in the Pacific, with each platoon consisting of 20 enlisted men, 18 scout dogs and six messenger dogs.

• One of the most famous war dogs, Chips, a German shepherd who was trained at Front Royal, saved countless lives when he attacked an enemy machine gun nest and, despite being shot, continued to attack the enemy, forcing the entire crew to surrender.

• With the “War on Terror,” customs dogs, search and rescue dogs, border patrol dogs, police dogs, secret service dogs and many others also will be included with the military working dogs in being recognized on K-9 Veterans Day.

• Joseph J. White, a retired military working dog handler, pioneered the nationwide movement to designate the anniversary of the founding of the K-9 Quartermaster Corps as a day to honor the loyal and loving dogs who faithfully serve their communities and country.

The proposed resolution calls for the General Assembly to designate March 13 in 2013 and each succeeding year as K-9 Veterans Day in Virginia. It also calls for the designation of this day to be placed on the General Assembly website.


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