Always Faithful: Remembering Veterans and Their Four-Legged Friends

Today is Veteran’s Day, and as much as I’d like our blog editor to give me pages and pages to write about the veterans I’ve known, highlighting their bravery and service to their country, I just haven’t been given the space. So let’s keep this short and sweet and think about a few quick facts.

Veteran’s Day wasn’t always Veteran’s Day, it started out as Armistice Day and was intended to celebrate the end of the “Great War” (which turned out to be the first of the 20th century’s World Wars). The first commemoration of Armistice Day in 1919 was planned to be a day of speeches and pomp and ceremony. Businesses were even encouraged to shut down briefly to mark the observance.

Over the years, the name changed, the date changed and a whole host of presidential executive orders made things a little muddy. In 1975, then-president Gerald Ford officially — and finally — re-established each Nov. 11 as the annual observance of Veteran’s Day.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing veterans from nearly every conflict and war, from World War II on. While it’s easy to stereotype “veterans,” all of those I’ve known have been dedicated, passionate people who love their country, respect the traditions of the military and, as a group, downplay their roles in some of the most brutal battles and nasty conditions any human should have to face.

We often talk on Pet Health Central about the human-animal bond, and anyone who knows and loves their pets knows what a comfort they can be. As veterinarian and author Dr. Marty Becker noted in his book, “The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy,” people time and time again report that their “pets knew when people needed connection and comfort.”

In nearly every war, on every battle ground, our fighting men and women have often had four-legged comrades working beside them or that they adopted (temporarily or permanently) to help them cope with the rigors of serving their country, away from family, home and homeland.

If you are looking for a few examples and want some further reading, I’d recommend the following:

  • From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman
  • The Dogs of War: The Courage, Love and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs by Lisa Rogak
  • Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog by Mike Dowling
  • Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage

If you just want a few minutes of “feel good” video, try these links of military men and women reunited with their former partners and friends:

From Afghanistan with love: Soldiers reunited with dogs they promised to not leave behind

U.S. Marine reunited with dog that saved his life

Watch these videos or read the books and then tell me if you think that, perhaps, the Marine Corps motto of “Semper Fidelis,” — “always faithful” — doesn’t make you think of these veterans and their four-legged friends. And to all members of the military, both past and present, I salute you and thank you for your service!

Tags: ,

  • Print
  • email