Dogs have served in combat since ancient times. They have fought alongside their masters with courage and loyalty for thousands of years. Even today, they are a vital part of America's military.
Accordingly, while we should not diminish the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have selflessly served this country, we also can't forget our military dogs.
Canines have been serving alongside American soldiers since the Revolutionary War. Although, at that point, they were primarily pets and mascots.
It wasn't until World War II that dogs were officially added to the ranks of the United States military.
During World War II and the Vietnam War, dogs acting as messengers and scouts saved tens of thousands of lives. In the Vietnam War alone, over 4,000 dogs served in the military.
As Rebecca Frankel highlights for the Wall Street Journal:
The vastly superior sensory powers of dogs make them extraordinarily useful in combat. Most dogs can hear sounds from up to four times farther away than humans can. Dogs can also see much better than we can in low light and darkness, and most have a much wider field of vision.
Simply put, dogs are fantastic soldiers, and many owe their lives to these brave animals.
Dogs Sniff Out Bombs And Save Lives
The War in Afghanistan has been the longest conflict in American history. Throughout this war, dogs have kept combat troops safe.
Military dogs have been particularly effective in sniffing out improvised explosive devices (IEDs). IEDs have been one of the most devastating weapons employed by the Taliban through the war. Tragically, 2,547 US service members have lost their lives in the War on Terror as a consequence of IED blasts.
Yet, thanks to the courageous canines who have served in this conflict, countless lives have been saved. Neither humans nor technology can detect IEDs better than dogs, that's a fact. A dog's sense of smell is 100,000 times better than a human's.
Likewise, as Frankel notes:
Dogs offer their fellow soldiers not just keen noses but also warm hearts. This may be why no robot or hand-held sensor will ever replace dogs in combat: A dog tugging at the leash to alert soldiers to the presence of explosives is doing so, at least in part, because of its devotion to the human at the other end.
Hence, the loyalty of dogs is precisely what makes them so effective in combat. Relatedly, check out the amazing example of Layka and her soldier handler:
Military dogs have been also been used for protection, tracking, pursuit and search and rescue operations. A dog was even present in the Navy Seal operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
As General David H. Petraeus stated whilst he was the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, "The capability they [dogs] bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine."
It's important to note that all of these dogs face the same dangers as ground troops. Sadly, dogs have been injured and killed during combat.
Hence, while we honor the men and women who have served this country, let's not forget to commemorate the thousands of dogs who bravely defended this country and its soldiers.