K-9 Veterans Day

March 13, 2024


Joe White, a Vietnam War veteran from Jacksonville, Florida, started K-9 Veterans Day. White was a dog handler who saw firsthand how valiantly K-9s served in the conflict and was disturbed by the (now abolished) euthanasia of working dogs at the end of their military service. To help raise awareness and honor the sacrifices of military working dogs, he came up with the idea of a holiday commemorating them.

The Greeks and Romans used the earliest military working dogs, favoring the monstrous Cane Corso. The Corso served as a guard dog due to its fearsome appearance. The Persians utilized leaner, sleeker breeds like the Saluki — the ancestor of the Greyhound — for hunting wild game. Mongolians had canine sentries in their armies. These massive dogs were ancestors of the modern-day Tibetan Mastiff. Legend has it that Genghis Khan led 50,000 of his war hounds to Western Europe, where they devoured the enemy in an unstoppable march. While this account is probably military propaganda, it shows the importance of the martial role dogs occupied in ancient times.

During WWI, dogs were used as messengers by European forces. They also hauled supply carts and machine guns, located wounded soldiers, and carried medical kits. In WWII, dogs served in various branches, acting as scouts, guarding supply posts and camps, and rescuing downed pilots. The Vietnam War marked the largest deployment of dogs in U.S. military history. Canines proved invaluable in the jungle environment of Southeast Asia, with the military greatly refining techniques for handlers and K-9s alike. Unfortunately, less than 200 military working dogs made it back home from the original 20,000. Today working dogs detect explosives and narcotics, and they have much better welfare thanks to the military learning from its past mistakes.

Here are five pups whose bravery is awe-inspiring