K-9s honored at memorial ceremony
By Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr., 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 18, 2011
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Military and civilian law enforcement dogs were honored and remembered during a ceremony at the Military Working Dog memorial at the Air Armament Museum, May 17.
The ceremony, hosted by the 96th Security Forces Squadron, was just one of the events taking place during National Police Week. MWDs, K-9s and their handlers from Eglin, Hurlburt Field and four law enforcement agencies attended the ceremony to pay their respects.
"The MWD is a special breed that shares a special bond with their handlers and the community," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Hardy, 96th SFS. "MWDs serve many roles throughout their career from protecting heads of state including the president, counter drug operations and force protection. K-9s are out on the road each night maintaining order in the community or fighting the war on drugs."
An empty kennel with a bowl and leash were placed in front of the memorial during the ceremony.
The kennel remains empty as a reminder of their selfless sacrifice, dedication to duty and unwavering bond to their handlers, Sergeant Hardy told the crowd. The leash and choke chain symbolize they are no longer bound to this world and may roam free amongst their fellow K-9s.
A recently retired MWD from Hurlburt Field was honored at the ceremony. After retirement, MWD Bak was adopted by his handler, Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Lind, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron.
MWD Bak had six handlers in his six years of service and deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He was honored with a meal presented by Hurlburt kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Ron King, 1st SOSFS.
"I wanted him to give him a chance just to be a dog and enjoy his retirement," said Sergeant Lind. "He deserved some stress-free years away from the kennel, he certainly earned it."
The names of the six MWDs who'd given their lives in service to the nation were read aloud - Beto, Sarah (Hurlburt), Banto, Warco, Bowy and Max (Eglin.)
Maj. Michael Borders, 96th SFS commander, spoke specifically about the "beautiful" bond between the MWD and handler. He said most people will never experience such a strong and powerful connection.
He told the story of a Marine Corp. handler, Pfc. Colton Rusk, who was killed by a Taliban sniper in Afghanistan in 2010. When the Marine went down, his MWD partner, a black Labrador named Eli crawled on top of him. The dog was later adopted by his family.
The ceremony closed out with Eglin's kennel master, Tech. Sgt. Gary King, 96th SFS, reading a poem titled "Just a Dog" by Christina Sudduth and the playing of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes by Lt. Col. Ken Baker, 919th Special Operations Wing.
"It's important to hold ceremonies like this because K-9s don't get the recognition they deserve for what they do," said Sergeant King. "We do this to honor them because we owe it to our partners to say thank you."