America's military presence in Iraq includes "soldiers"
who have received none of the farewell fanfare and support accorded the
hundreds of thousands of traditional troops deployed. Neither are they
being recognized for the heroic service they provided in past wars. They
are war dogs.
Veteran handler Charlie Cargo tells of the day his dog
Wolf, a German Shepherd, refused to allow him to proceed up a trail in
Vietnam. "I looked straight ahead and not more then two feet away was a
trip wire. I would have died right there if he hadn't found the wire,"
Cargo said. Teams were so effective that the Viet Cong offered a bounty
for dead war dogs or their handlers.
The dogs prevented soldiers from triggering booby traps
or stepping on land mines, and they alerted their handlers to hidden
enemy soldiers far away. They detected underwater saboteurs by the smell
of their breath from the reeds they used as snorkels. Some protected
their handlers from gunfire and shrapnel with their own bodies, losing
their own lives in return.
In the Vietnam War, an estimated 10,000 American
casualties were prevented by the efforts of 4,000 faithful American
dogs. Only 265 dog handlers were killed in action. Of the dogs, 325 died
in the line of duty, and 600 succumbed to tropical disease. Because the
Vietnam War was so unpopular, many of our soldiers returned home
abandoned and unrecognized. Also unheralded were their heroic dogs. Some
say the government considered them expendable "equipment." The handlers
were devastated to leave their best friends behind. Today, handlers who
served in Vietnam still break down and cry as they tell of their dogs'
heroics and the lives they saved. Fortunately, war dogs are no longer
considered expendable and are sent back to U.S. Air Force bases for
continuing service. That's a start.
Commemorative postage stamps are approved by Congress.
Even Donald Duck has one. But efforts by veterans to so honor our war
dogs have been passed over by Congress -- twice. Donald Duck has
entertained and delighted us for generations, but how many soldiers'
lives has he saved? Don't these dogs deserve at least a postage stamp?
ALAN CUNNINGHAM, DVM
Go on to Pineapple
Coleslaw recipe by Greg Lawson
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