No Military Dogs Should Ever be Left Behind

imageedit_2_3850556936“A dog is a man’s best friend,” is a popular quote that most of us have heard of. But have any of you heard that “A man’s best friend is his equipment?” Well, that’s how the Pentagon labels military dogs, “equipment” and as such can be left behind after their troop owners are sent home.

Brenner Brief reports, “In a small, nondescript cemetery a stone’s throw from Highway 17 running alongside the sprawling Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base on the North Carolina coast, 30 Marines have been laid to rest over the years with special markers on each grave recounting the history of each fallen Leatherneck. All those buried in the quiet little cemetery died in the service of their country, all were interred with every honor due a fallen hero. It’s fitting that the 30 Marines laid to rest at the Camp Lejeune Special War Dog Cemetery are surrounded by Live Oak and Cyprus trees shrouded by Spanish Moss, that’s exactly the kind of place dogs love.”

A number of military dogs, however, will never receive those honors or resting place because they have been left behind and abandon overseas in shelters in war zones.

Military Dogs save around 150 American lives during their service but when they become too old, shell-shocked or simply combat fatigued, they are left behind instead of bringing them home for adoption.

USA Today’s, Jonah Goldberg, stated, “It is one thing to ask these warriors to say goodbye to their dog when it is still on active duty and is assigned a new handler, which often happens. It is quite another to ask them to leave these dogs behind when the dogs are effectively abandoned overseas, left to languish in shelter—or worse. That’s why handlers are sometimes forced to make incredible sacrifices to get their four-legged comrades home on their own.”

The expense to these combat veterans can be devastating and well into thousands of dollars.

Things have gotten better for combat dogs since President Clinton signed a 2000 law, but its still happening, “even with half-empty cargo planes transversing the globe daily,” reports CNN.


“It would be more than feasible to place a retired military working dog on the transport plane back to the continental United States,” CNN added. “Uncle Sam got them over there, and it’s a point of honor for Uncle Sam to get his soldiers, whether they are four-legged or two-legged, back to the U.S.”

For years, understanding the moral wrongness of leavening military dogs behind, Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) has been fighting to change this, though without success. Jones has tried to have military dogs reclassified to “canine member of the Armed Forces” from being labeled as “equipment.”

However, getting any politicians to consider the K-9 Corps is almost hopeless when politicians have their hands full dealing with human vets and the VA scandals.

Thor, who former Marine Corps Sgt. Deano Miller was forced to leave behind, was finally reunited recently. “They said they’d give us time to say goodbye. They didn’t.” Miller could barely contain his tears when he gazed upon the large yellow Labrador.

“It was like I was abandoning my best friend and he couldn’t understand why.”

The question on many American hearts is why? All military working dogs are completely recognized as members of our Armed Forces. They receive medals and are promoted right on up the ranks, just like their masters. Each military dog even has its own Service Record Book. Why, then, are we leaving our military soldiers behind? They are heroes who save lives, yet are tossed away like so much trash. It seems unconscionable.


Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base, told CNN, “While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them. A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never.”

If you still feel you need convincing how wrong this all is, watch the 2013 Animal Planet documentary covering U.S. war dogs in Afghanistan. The documentary goes over how very important these animals are and how tight the bond is between canine and handler.

“Your dog has to be able to trust you,” stated Lance Cpl. Kent Ferrell. Ferrell’s German shepherd, Zora, was trained to not only find explosives but to attack the enemy. “The relationship between you and your dog is the most important part of your partnership.”

It must feel much like leaving a sibling behind. Just a most siblings have your back, so do these brave canines. Our heroes come home dealing with so many issues; does this too have to be added to their plate?

“Organizations such as the United States War Dog Association, the American Humane Association and K9’s of the War on Terror do heroic work to reunite them when possible, at no taxpayer expense,” reports Goldberg.

Jones has been pushing legislation that military dogs could only be retired upon return to the U.S. though has been decaying in Congress for years.

“Politically, and morally, it’s understandable that the top priority must be given to providing human veterans with adequate care, particularly amid the horrific Veterans Affairs scandals plaguing the Obama administration,” reports USA Today. “No politician wants to be accused of caring more about dogs than people. But that’s largely a false choice. The cost of finding room on military transports is negligible, according to many. Private organizations can handle the rest.”


“During the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team,” reports Brenner Brief. “Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners. The four crewmen were forced to leave the pillbox and surrendered to US troops. In the fight he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take 10 Italians prisoner. For his actions during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart; however, these awards were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. His unit unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for an assault landing, and Battlestars for each of his eight campaigns. Chips was discharged in December of 1945.”

If our country and military are responsible for these brave dogs and benefit from their service, then there is a moral obligation to do the right thing and bring these K-9 soldiers home. No military dog should ever be left behind.


By Lorra B. Chief Writer for Silent Soldier