12/01/04 — Group seeks to memorialize canine military service

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Group seeks to memorialize canine military service

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on December 1, 2004 1:59 PM

PIKEVILLE -- U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones has informally agreed to help veterans establish a monument in Washington, D.C., for military dogs.

Jones met Tuesday morning at the Pikeville Masons Lodge with representatives of the National War Dog Memorial Fund and viewed a model of the memorial they hope to construct.

Afterward, he agreed to champion their efforts in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, Perry Money and Jim Hiteshew

News-Argus/Matt Shaw

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, left, has agreed to lead efforts to create a national memorial in Washington, D.C., for military working dogs. Also shown with a model of the monument are Perry Money, center, a Marine dog handler during the Vietnam War, and Jim Hiteshew of Pikeville, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

"I fully understand the need to memorialize the important role that these animals have played in our nation's war history," Jones said. "I have a passion for animals, and this is an extremely worthwhile project."

Jones was asked to work with the National Park Service to find a location in Washington. The veterans plan to have a national fund-raising campaign to pay for the construction, landscaping and upkeep of the memorial.

"We don't intend for this to cost the taxpayers anything," said Perry Money, a former Marine dog-handler during the Vietnam War.

The model depicts a German shepherd and a soldier atop a rock. The handler is depicted on one knee, which is intended to show the partnership between man and dog. At the foot of the monument are a Doberman pinscher and a Labrador retriever, two other breeds that have frequently been used by the military.

The statue will be larger than life and cast in bronze, Money said. The cost of construction could be $3 million to $5 million, but the public has been supportive so far. The greater challenge could be finding a suitable site and getting congressional approval, he added.

The National War Dog Memorial Fund was established in 2001 by a group of former dog handlers to honor the 100,000 dogs that have been used by the U.S. military since World War I. Dogs have had such duties as scout, sentry, tracker, explosive detection, tunnel exploration, water patrol, and search and rescue.

Money, of Yadkin County, worked for six months in 1970 in Vietnam with a German shepherd named Missy who was trained to find mines and booby traps. They often would walk point for Marines on patrol, he said.

"You depend on a dog being 100 percent perfect," he said. "They'd do so much for us and all they would look for was food, water and a pat on the back."

About 4,000 dogs served during the Vietnam War. The dogs were so good at their jobs that North Vietnamese military officials reportedly offered a $1,500 bounty to anyone who could kill one, Money said, adding that the handlers only carried a $400 bounty.

As the years have passed, people have forgotten about the dogs' service, he said. But a History Channel program and a Parade Magazine cover story, both in 2001, recapped their history for military dogs and created support for a memorial.

For more information or to contribute money, go to www.wardogsmemorial.org.