The U.S. Army Quartermaster Foundation at Fort Lee Virginia, on their website identifies WWII as the real starting time for using military dogs in the military service of the USA. It was sometime in the middle or end of 1942. Accepting that as the time period when we started to employ these beautiful animals, it is 70 years now since the war dogs began contributing to our freedom. There is a bill in the Senate called, "Canine Members of the Armed Services Act (S.2134), which is intended to reclassify MWDs as canine members of the armed forces, instead of being classified as ‘equipment'. It seems to be stalled in Congress (the House of Representatives has a companion bill processing). I urge every member of the American Legion to contact their representatives in Washington and ask them to support these bills. These fellow military members (current and past) deserve our recognition.
To give you a feel of the experience, I'm including an excerpt from the book I've written about my own experience entitled, Angels of the Night but Devils by Dark. This is from the time I spent trying to get my dog to accept me:
"I finally decided that, if I had to spend the next couple of years in the Air Police, the idea of working with a dog and having the freedom to move around a secured area strongly appealed to me. Plus I came to enjoy talking to guys who appreciated the virtues of dogs as much as I did. And at the time there seemed to be a certain mystique about the dog men. They seemed to magically appear out of the dark wooded areas; kind of like the Phantom appearing out of the mist. (OK, maybe I had too much imagination at that time.) Most of the rest of these memories will be about them. One of our temporary Provost Marshalls (a Captain) referred to them as, "The Infantry of the Air Force."
Subsequently, I applied to be accepted into the K-9 Unit. Upon being accepted, I was taken to the kennel area and shown the dog to whom I was going to be assigned. His name was Drusus (actually I learned that he was a purebred German Sheppard Dog and his full name was Drusus von Stuben der Unhold. Not all sentry dogs in the unit were purebred GSDs). I greeted Drusus by calling him by his name. He lunged to the end of his chain, growling, snapping and barking at me, shaking the side of the dog house where his chain attached as he did. It was pretty clear that he would rather eat me than work with me.
There's a certain sadness to the life of a sentry dog because of this changing of partners every three years or so. I'm sure his former handler loved him and missed him also. I'm certain of this because it was the hardest and saddest part of my time to leave Hahn and Drusus a few years later, when it was my time to go home. It was what made the event bittersweet. So I sat there beside his pit for many days and told this dog my life story, short as it was at that time, and I came to believe that this dog knew more about me and my feelings than any other being on earth. I felt pretty comfortable with this because I doubted that he was going to tell anyone else. I think he finally got so bored by my chatter that he let me into his pit. What a wonderful feeling that was, when Drusus leaned against me in a canine hug. Somehow I knew at that moment that my time on duty would never be boring again. I'm not ashamed to say that I loved that dog.
Jerome D. Bennett is a veteran of the USAF and a member of the Jay Wilson Post 112 of the American Legion in Madison, Ohio. His service was as a K-9 security team member at now closed Hahn Air Base in Han, Germany. He continues to be an advocate for animal rights with special affection for military service dogs. He has written a book titled "Angels of the Night but Devils by Dark". This book is not yet published but is in play to be published.