Military Unveils Monument to Dogs in Combat


This is just a short snippet from NBC, but I thought it was appropriate for Veterans Day. I’m planning a trip to San Antonio this winter, and I’m putting this on my list as a must-see, so I’ll get some up close and personal pictures for you while I”m there.

The monument features a dog handler and four dogs, one from each of the breeds most commonly used in combat: Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Belgian Malinois. The monument is in San Antonio because Lackland Air Force Base has trained dogs for all branches of the military since 1958.

John Burnam, a dog handler in Vietnam, was incensed that handlers were not allowed to bring their dogs home when they left Vietnam. I’m not sure why he was surprised – we left men there, why wouldn’t we leave dogs? (Oops! Did I say that out loud? I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

Anyways, Burnam began lobbying Congress in 2007 for a national monument for all military working dogs of all wars since WWII with the sponsorship of US Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina. According to the John Burnam Monument Foundation, here’s how the monument came to be:

January 28, 2008 – President George W. Bush signed bill into Public Law 110-181, Section 2877.

October 28, 2009 – President Barack Obama amended public law to authorize the John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc. to manage, fund, and build the National Monument.

Corporate Sponsor: Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc. & Petco became our official corporate sponsors after I met Mr. Joey Herrick in Washington DC in May 2011. I had invited Mr. Herrick to come to Washington DC on a second trip to meet with me and U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones to discuss the details of what his company and Petco could do to help raise funds for the national monument project. I couldn’t have asked for a better company to help us.

Maddie’s Fund: Corporate Sponsor: Mr. David and Cheryl Duffield founded Maddie’s Fund. Mr. Duffield had read an article I had written about my service as a scout dog handler during the Vietnam War and my work to establish a national monument for the war dogs. He invited me to meet with his Board f Directors. After my presentation, Maddie’s Fund agreed to be a Corporate Sponsor to help us raise funds for the national monument. Maddie’s Fund has been a perfect fit ever since.

Paula Slater, Bronze Sculptor was selected from several artists to sculpt the bronze statues of the four dogs and the dog handler. It took Paula almost three years – start to finish. She started with our conceptual graphics design and developed miniature clay models of each statue. When they were approved, she sculpted the full-sized clay sculptures of the four dog breeds and the dog handler in masterful detail. After the full-sized clay models were approved, Paula hauled them from her studio to the foundry to be cast in bronze and then added the patina with expert precision.

Paula is currently sculpting the bronze Dog Water Fountain as the final component to the national monument design. Paula has been a huge blessing to this project.

Keith Monument Company, a Rock of Ages company, is providing and installing all the granite components covering approximately 3,000 square feet of the national monument’s plaza area (e.g., granite pedestals, large wall, benches, and pavers). The granite is quarried in the state of Vermont where granite is the official state rock. The granite will be cut to specifications, polished, inscribed, packed and shipped to Lackland Air Force Base for installation. Keith monument Company has established a reputation for selecting the highest quality granite and providing superior craftsmanship that lasts forever.

Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. is a premiere laser stone etching company. Jim Smith, Owner/CEO is the graphics laser artist working with JBMF to lay out the artwork of authentic photographs of military working dog teams of each war since WWII. Jim will create a unique and artful collage of photo images we have selected and laser-etch them onto a large slab of black granite. The black granite slab will be bonded to the back of the large granite History Wall. Jim is a sought after expert for his unique style of laser artwork on black granite that will last virtually forever.

Ahern Construction Corporation and John Burnam. Tim and Shane Laas dug and reinforced an 8 feet deep foundation to hold up the tons of granite. They will also plant the grass, bushes and trees, and install the plumbing for the dog water fountain.

Congratulations, Mr. Burnam, and a great big wag of the tail for achieving your dream, and thank you for honoring our four-legged veterans in such a meaningful way. Thank you for your service. Welcome home!

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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