Vietnam War Dog Memorial
March Field is a legendary Air Force base that has preserved bits of its history in the impressive March Field Museum. It's a fitting backdrop for the West Coast War Dog Memorial, saluting brave American pooches and their handlers.
The black obelisk/column is just past the entryway B-24 bomber. Funded and sponsored by Nature's Recipe Pet Foods, the 16-ft. tall granite and bronze statue depicts a soldier and a German Shepherd. It was sculpted by A. Thomas Schumberg and dedicated on Feb. 21, 2000.
Other somber military monuments and memorials are arrayed around the grounds, but the War Dog Memorial commands the plaza's central vantage. The sculpted soldier is half absorbed, Han Solo-like, by the slab -- but vigilant. His dog is alert, attuned to an impending jungle ambush, or maybe just a noisy weekend pass latecomer.
A bronze plaque at the base reads:
"They Protected Us On The Field of Battle.
They Watch Over Our Eternal Rest.
We Are Grateful.
The War Dog Memorial Is a Tribute
To All Dog And handler Teams
That Served Our Country So Proudly."
Most touching are the tiles around the Memorial's base, tributes to individual dogs, each marked with a symbolic black pawprint. Inscriptions are short and a bit cryptic, but hint at the adventures and trials these dogs must have undergone: "'Hilda' My Hero Da Nang 66 B Martin" or "Team F Ban Me Thout 981st MP K9 Mort 69."Other tiles salute dogs from W.W.II and Korea.
One is a stark apology: "King Leaving you was sad and wrong Peace."What's the story here? Was King the last dog on the American embassy roof in 1975, valiantly attempting crowd control as the helicopters fled Saigon? The Memorial doesn't explain, but you get the sense the remembrance of each canine, whether for valor or simple companionship, helps veteran handlers find closure on the relationship with their departed dogs.
The East Coast National War Dog Memorial is at Fort Benning, GA -- home of the Calculator the Dog Memorial -- in front of the National Infantry Museum. Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York has been home to another War Dog Memorial for many years. The island of Guam features the Doberman War Dog Memorial (and there is a replica at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine). Small town tributes such as "Guardians," a war dog memorial in Streamwood, Illinois, are becoming more common.
There is growing pressure for recognition on a national scale. A brochure available at the March Field ticket counter encourages visitor donations to a proposed National War Dog Memorial in Washington DC, honoring "Courage at both ends of the leash." There's a photo of the Vietnam War Memorial wall, a German Shepherd sitting and looking on patiently, with the caption: "Where's my name?"