Dori Edwards, Global Animal
LOS ANGELES — In just two months, the first national monument dedicated to military dogs will be unveiled in California. There have been several memorials built across the country in recognition of canine combatants, but this is the first to be promoted at a national level. Called The U.S. Working Dog Teams National Monument, the memoriam will honor every canine cadet since World War II.
A 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran, John Burnham, is the catalyst for this great progress in animal appreciation. Between 1966 and 1968, Burnham worked with two German Shepherds, Timber and Clipper, and a Sentry Dog named Hans.
“While serving in the U.S. Army infantry, I first realized the incredible life saving capabilities of a dog in war,” Burnham said. “I wanted to give something back to these animals that have done so much and asked for so little, except for food and water and the love of their handlers.”
In 2000, he published “Dog Tags of Courage,” and in 2008, “A Soldier’s Best Friend.”
A year after the release of his first novel, a fan asked why there was no national monument for military dogs. So in 2004, Burnham and two other veterans pursued the idea. The trio established the John Burnham Monument Foundation Inc.
However, the plan did not become a possibility until 2006, when Burnham met North Carolina representative Walter B. Jones. In 2007, Jones introduced a bill for the construction of the monument, which was unanimously passed by congress and subsequently signed by President Bush and later amended by current President Barack Obama.
Burnham designed the monument which depicts a nine-foot-tall military handler surrounded by four, five-foot-tall, “hero-sized” dogs, as Burnham calls them. The four dogs are, from left to right, a Doberman, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Belgian Malinois—all dog breeds trained for battle.
The five figures will stand in front of a granite wall. One side of the wall will have etched photos of military dog teams in combat, and on the other, there will be an inscription written by Burnham himself.
This national monument would not have been possible without the many compassionate animal lovers who helped raise funds. The president of Natural Balance donated one million dollars to the project when Burnham made a fundraising pitch on “Who Let The Dogs Out,” a show featuring NB’s representative Tillman the skateboarding bulldog.
Natural Balance also created a treat to sell at Petco stores in order to raise funds for building and maintaining the monument.
Another sponsor that signed was Maddie’s Fund, a family-funded pet rescue foundation.
The entire nation will get a televised sneak peek of the monument on January 1, 2013 during the Tournament of Roses Parade. A flower replica is being created for the Natural Balance float that will feature Burnham alongside soldier dogs and their handlers from every military branch.
The U.S. Working Dog Teams National Monument will make its official debut in Victory Park. It will then be relocated to its permanent home at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, the headquarters for military dog training.
Tillman is also receiving military dog recognition. The famous bulldog has been made an honorary private 1st class for his work entertaining the troops and completing a mini bootcamp.
Military dogs put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers and their country. These compassionate canines deserve this great honor and we look forward to seeing this monumental debut.