Army veteran commemorates the lives and contributions of the dogs of war


TOWNSHIP OF LYON, Michigan (WOOD) – Headstones in any veterans cemetery tell tales of heroism, honor and sacrifice for our country.

In a cemetery in the eastern part of the state, the gravestones belong to some of the hero dogs who served alongside their human masters.

One of them is Shaman, the military working dog assigned to guard Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after his capture in Operation Red Dawn in 2003.

Another is the emperor. Assigned to a SEAL team, his original handler was killed in a raid in which the Emperor was stabbed but survived. He was then retrained for a new assignment as a service dog for a veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Now here’s a dog that’s going to shoot you down and kill you. He’s trained. But then you just flip the switch and it becomes a service dog, ”said US Army veteran Phil Weitlauf.

Weitlauf founded what has become the last home of the four-legged heroes: the Michigan War Dogs Memorial.

US Army veteran Phil Weitlauf is in the Michigan War Dogs Memorial near South Lyon. (Oct 27, 2021)

Weitlauf got the idea for the memorial after hearing stories in the local Foreign War Veterans Hall about the heroism and camaraderie the dogs provided to their handlers and other soldiers stationed far from home in often hostile environments.

“These dogs are so well trained to do their jobs, and their main function is to save lives and they would,” Weitlauf said. “When (the soldiers) come back to their hutch, they can hang on to their dog. They can talk to their dog. It makes them feel like they are at home with their pet.

He wandered around the once abandoned pet cemetery, located near southern Lyon about 30 minutes west of Detroit, in 2010. At the time, he looked a lot different than he did. is today. Neglected for decades, the tombstones were buried under brush and weeds. Hidden in the proliferation was a monument to the dogs of war erected after World War II.

Weitlauf had a vision to turn the forgotten pet cemetery into a lasting monument. He appealed to other veterans for help.

“I was hoping maybe 10 or 12 guys would come over here and help me. More than 55 people showed up. And I said, ‘We have something’, ”Weitlauf recalls.

The Michigan War Dogs Memorial near Lyon Sud. (Oct 27, 2021)

In 2013, Buddy became the first war dog buried at the memorial.

“To date, we have buried over 55 K-9 heroes,” Weitlauf said.

The upkeep of the memorial and the cost of funeral services are all covered by donations.

While it’s also open to police, firefighters and other emergency service dogs, the majority of the K-9s buried there served in the military.

“It’s our way of showing respect to those military and police dogs who protect us every day,” Weitlauf said.

The Michigan War Dogs Memorial near Lyon Sud. (Oct 27, 2021)

The memorial also provides a lesson you won’t find in history books about the contributions the K-9 servicemen have made since WWI. At the time, their duties were to charge into no man’s land after a battle to save wounded soldiers. .

“Take a piece of his clothing back to the stretcher bearers, then bring the stretcher bearers back to this wounded soldier.” And they did it again and again and they just saved thousands of lives, ”Weitlauf explained.

Over time, the missions of the dogs of war have changed. During World War II, the K-9s were trained as scouts, trackers, sentries, and messengers. During the Korean conflict, dogs were credited with saving soldiers by warning them of ambushes. In Vietnam, they were trained in the detection of explosives.

Weitlauf says dogs have saved countless lives.

According to the War Dog Memorial, 2,800 military working dogs are currently deployed. Honoring them has become a passion for Weitlauf.

“These dogs need to be recognized,” he said. “It keeps me so busy and so active and I think it’s going to create a bit of longevity for me because I’m constantly working on it all the time. I love it.”

The Michigan War Dogs Memorial near Lyon Sud. (Oct 27, 2021)

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