Military dogs may soon be eligible for U.S. medal honoring service, sacrifice

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is confident President Donald Trump will sign the defense authorization act Congress approved — and that includes creating the first official commendation to honor military working dogs and their handlers. 

At the U.S War Dog Memorial in Holmdel Tuesday, Menendez said he’s grateful the measure he introduced two years ago will become a law establishing the Guardians of America Freedom Medal to recognize the valor and achievement of military dogs.

“Honoring their service — as well as their partner — I think is incredibly important. You know, we have lost a lot of dogs along the way who gave their lives … others have been maimed for life,” said Menendez. “At the end of the day, I think it’s the least a grateful nation can do for them and for their handlers.” 

The U.S. War Dog Memorial was designed by sculptor Bruce Lindsay. It consists of a bronze statue of a kneeling soldier and his dog, set on a black granite base. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Ron Aiello, the president of the U.S War Dog Association, said he has been trying since 2006 to convince the military to honor service dogs and their handlers with an award. The dogs have saved thousands of lives, he said. 

“They are a great asset to our military. They’re our first line of defense,” he said. “They’re out there in front of the patrols, looking for any danger that can harm our troops.” 

Navy Petty Officer Ashlea Scully, who has partnered with nine military service dogs, said she’s grateful that dogs could get a medal for their actions. 

“I feel they deserve the same amount of tribute and thanks and honor that we would give to any man and woman that has gone before us and fought to defend our freedom and our rights,” said Scully.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal