Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I really should have posted this 'on the day' but I published the Growing Up With Pets post and already had a number of hits when I thought of this article so I wrote it Memorial Day but posted it today.

It seems more and more we lose sight of what Memorial Day is all about - I did this year, that's why this post is a day late. Everyone gets wrapped up in the beginning of summer, the first big holiday weekend, picnics, barbecues, events, the beach, amusements and whatever other wonderful fun activities are planned.

We need to remember those who gave their lives so we could keep the freedoms we so readily enjoy as Americans. Beyond the human equation, I would like to remind everyone of the "dogs of war". More than a phrase from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, dogs have been part of military campaigns going back to before 600 BC.  As a nation, we are no different, employing dogs for various military operations from sniffing out bombs to delivering messages, as MPs, guard dogs and ambulance dogs for the Red Cross.

The Boomer generation will be familiar with  Rin Tin Tin , a canine celebrity with his own television show during the 50s.  The original  Rin Tin Tin  was rescued as a pup from a French battlefield during WWI. After the war, he accompanied his owner to Hollywood, became a movie star and garnered a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  

And then there was Stubby... Stubby was America's first decorated canine war hero. A Pit Bull who saved his comrades from attack, captured an enemy spy and was wounded in battle, Stubby achieved the rank of Sergeant, survived WWI to return home and muster out with his unit. 

The Civil War saw many mascots on both sides of the Mason/Dixon and not just dogs but cats, a bald eagle and a pig. Sallie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, regularly went into battle with the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry. Captured twice by the Confederates, she escaped only to die at the Battle of Hatchers Run and was buried with her comrades.

America has utilized canines and their amazing abilities during every War and military action since the Civil War. Dogs that served during WWII were brought home and honorably discharged much like their human comrades in arms. From what I've read, the dogs that served in Vietnam were not as lucky. Abandoned by their country after the war was over. Returning veterans weren't treated much better upon their return.

Currently, we have dogs serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Rin Tin Tin and Stubby were two survivors of war; Sallie was a casualty.  On Guam there is a small cemetery which contains the remains of 24 dogs that gave their lives in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Slowly we are starting to acknowledge our canine heroes with memorials.

Memorial Day, a day to remember those who lost their lives to keep us free. Veteran's Day, a day to remember those who fought to keep us free and lived to return to the homeland they defended so honorably. Two-legged or four-legged we need to remember and honor them all.

To read about Rin Tin Tin, Stubby and Sallie follow the links below:


  1. Very interesting take on Memorial Day. I had no idea there were records of so many animals serving in the Civil War! That sounds like a good book idea . . .

  2. Just a natural outgrowth of reading about soldiers in Afghanistan & Iraq working with dogs. Most of the animals were mascots. It is a good idea for a book.