by Nick Norris

Soldiers come in all shapes and sizes, some even have fur coats and wagging tails

As Americans everywhere spend Veterans Day honoring the strong men and women who once served, it is fitting to also remember the selfless canines who were often right alongside them.

Today’s military dogs are recognized as valuable members of their respective units, often receiving their own awards, retirement ceremonies, and memorial services. Because military and working dogs have remained so vital to the United States military throughout history, they fairly deserve appreciation this Veterans Day, as well.

In March of 1942, the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, marking the first time that dogs were officially utilized in the U.S. Armed Forces. K9s began proving their worth almost immediately, and have continued to do so ever since.

Sgt. Stubby sporting his military uniform and decorations

Sgt. Stubby, America’s original war dog, is one of history’s most iconic. The short brindle bull terrier mutt served for 18 months during World War I, participating in 17 battles on the Western Front. Stubby played a large role in assisting the 26th Division by saving his regiment from surprise mustard attacks, retrieving and comforting the wounded, and even occasionally apprehending the enemy, himself.

On one occasion, Stubby is said to have caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants and held him there until Americans soldiers arrived.

Years later, another military K9 would become a national icon. Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II, fought selflessly for the U.S. Army. The German-Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix once famously charged a machine gun nest before attacking the shooter by the throat and pulling him from his mount.

Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II

In 2011, a Belgian Malinois named Cairo helped make American history with the Navy SEALs in the Osama bin Laden raid. More recently, another Belgian Malinois named Conan chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019. Conan was wounded after Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, but is expected to fully recover.

K9s have become significant members of the military because of their high intellect, impressive athleticism, strong determination, and selfless bravery.

On this Veterans Day, remember the numerous hero dogs who helped protect America’s freedoms. Many gave their lives so that we might continue ours.