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US military abandoning war dogs as useless 'equipment'

Marine Corps war dog protects his master on Iwo Jima.
Marine Corps war dog protects his master on Iwo Jima.
Wikimedia-Commons, Public Domain.

In a small, nondescript cemetery a stone's throw from Highway 17 running alongside the sprawling Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base on the North Carolina coast, 30 Marines have been laid to rest over the years with special markers on each grave recounting the history of each fallen Leatherneck. All those buried in the quiet little cemetery died in the service of their country, all were interred with every honor due a fallen hero. It's fitting that the 30 Marines laid to rest at the Camp Lejeune Special War Dog Cemetery are surrounded by Live Oak and Cyprus trees shrouded by Spanish Moss, that's exactly the kind of place dogs love.

Yet as reported by Jonah Goldberg of USA Today on Sept. 1, 2014, a number of war dogs (or as they're officially known: "military working dogs") who have served overseas aren't being returned to the United States. Classified by the Pentagon as "equipment," war dogs serving overseas don't always come back to the States when their units deploy home. Many are shipped as far as US military installations in Germany, and from there dumped into local kennels to hopefully be adopted. If not, the dogs are at least assumedly put down in a humane fashion.

As noted by the American Thinker magazine on Mar. 14, 2013, Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) has been trying unsuccessfully for years to have military working dogs reclassified from "equipment" to that of "canine member of the Armed Forces." Yet in the wake of the Veterans Administration scandal still in an unresolved status, getting politicians to pay attention to human veterans is difficult enough, but for members of the K-9 Corps it's seemingly impossible.

With the civilians calling the shots for the Armed Forces denying military transportation for the dogs left in Germany, they do leave the option open for their former handlers and other dog lovers the option to adopt them, all at the cost of whoever wants to adopt the dog, often running into the thousands of dollars. After being forced to abandon his dog, Thor, former Marine Corps Sgt. Deano Miller fought back tears as he was finally re-united recently. "They said they'd give us time to say goodbye. They didn't," Miller says, looking down at the big yellow Labrador. "It was like I was abandoning my best friend and he couldn't understand why."

As seen in the video, official Service mascots, like the Marine Corps Private Chesty XIV, and all military working dogs are fully recognized as members of the Armed Forces. Each has a Service Record Book, promoted up the ranks and even recipients of medals and service ribbons. Notably, the National War Dog Cemetery located at the US Naval Station on the US territory of Guam pay tribute to the 60 war dogs that participated in the Liberation of Guam during the Second World War. Of the 60, 25 were killed and 20 wounded.

During the freeing of the island, a Doberman named Kurt reportedly saved the lives of 250 Marines when he warned them of a massive Japanese force massing ahead preparing to attack. Kurt was severely wounded during a mortar barrage, along with his handler, PFC Allen Jacobson, who is said to have refused treatment until Kurt had been evacuated. The loyal Dobie was the first Marine war dog to die during the Battle of Guam.

Also notable was the US Army's Chips who fought in the Italian Campaign during WWII. As cited, "during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners. The four crewmen were forced to leave the pillbox and surrendered to US troops. In the fight he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take 10 Italians prisoner. For his actions during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Purple Heart; however, these awards were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. His unit unofficially awarded him a Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for an assault landing, and Battlestars for each of his eight campaigns. Chips was discharged in December 1945."

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