WAR DOG MEMORIAL - May 8, 2004 at 1:00PM
There is no group of veterans prouder than the dog handlers --- or more properly it is pride in their dogs. Thirty-five or forty years after being in combat with their closest buddy they will shoot out their dog's Preston Brand number (serial number) without missing a beat. On May 8, 2004 at 1:00PM a pedestal with the names and Preston Brand numbers of all dogs KIA (killed in action) since World War II will be unveiled. A naval bell will be rung as each name is announced. And that bell will be tolled over 400 times; once for each dog KIA since World War II.
There are two War Dog Memorials; one at March Air Force Base, CA and the other at The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, GA. Californian Jeffery Bennett put the War Dog Memorial project together. They are two identical enormous bronzes of a dog and its handler in Vietnam-era combat gear.
The Georgia memorial is the one that will have the unveiling. This pedestal is one of twelve pedestals paid for by the different dog handling units. They are separate and apart from the actual memorial.
The dynamo behind the pedestals is Sfc. Jesse S. Mendez (USA Ret.), a 21-year Army veteran who served three tours in Vietnam. Mendez now, as he was when on active duty, is obsessed with training. "Realistic combat training" is the phrase the military uses and the sergeant made sure that the men and dogs that he trained were combat ready. No government money was used in the Memorial or the pedestals. Each group, representing various dog handling groups raised the money for "their" pedestal. Mendez organized and put together the twelve pedestals and their content.
Speaking at the memorial giving an overview of the military dog-training program will be Captain Haggerty. Haggerty, a two-time graduate of The Infantry School's OCS and Ranger School also commanded the 26th Infantry Scout dog platoon at Benning, in addition to a number of other dog assignments. The Captain is perhaps better known as an actor, author and animal trainer, to which he would proudly add, soldier. His head will be bowed as the bell tolls the dogs that gave their lives for the United States.