Honoring Dogs of War


Bucks County Courier Times  

Jim Remer was assigned to handle a German shepherd named Marko the day he arrived in Vietnam in 1970.  After months of working together, Marko died from natural causes. When Remer left Vietnam, he took the nameplate from Marko's kennel and brought it home.  Remer proudly wore the silver nameplate around his neck as Saturday Bristol Township's War Dog Memorial was unveiled at the township's municipal complex on Bath Road. Remer was among a crowd of more than two dozen proud servicemen and servicewomen — some retired, some still active — who attended the event with local authorities and dog lovers.

Dan Hamilton, a member of Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans, spoke of the historical impact of canines in battle. Fellow Delaware Valley veteran Karl Gross read allowed the names of handlers present at the dedication and the dogs they served with.  Other speakers included State Sens. Vincent Fumo and Robert Tomlinson.

“I've been waiting for this a long time,” Remer, of Middletown, said with a smile. “I've been waiting for the day when I could take this nameplate out.”

The memorial's 10-foot bronze centerpiece depicts an alert German shepherd and soldier. It was sculpted by Bristol artist Joe Pavone.  Behind the statue are three black stone monoliths. Engraved on the stones are the names of military operations the dogs have served in, as well as the military branches that continue to use war dogs.

Kenneth Melkun, chaplain of the Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans, marked the importance of the memorial with a speech.  “Today we honor the war dogs that had just as much devotion as the men who stood at their side,” Melkun said. “I come here at night when no one's around, sit on that bench and talk to my friends. We're doing the right thing.” he said, overcome by emotion.

Bristol Township Mayor Sam Fenton, who worked for years to push the project forward, expressed joy that it was finally completed.  “This is an extremely glorious and satisfying day,” he said, noting that canines once considered expendable equipment by the military are now being honored properly.

Joan Yates, a member of the Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans, said the dedication was an emotional event.  “I cried,” said Yates, known to her friends as G.I. Joanie. “My brother served in Vietnam and this is where my heart belongs. These are my people.”

Of the 5,000 dogs that served in Vietnam, most were euthanized by the military or handed over to South Vietnamese soldiers, area veterans said. It is estimated that those dogs saved approximately 10,000 lives in Vietnam alone.  “Those dogs were something,” Remer said as he stared at the statue. “I had a German shepherd that died a few months ago. Now I have a Chihuahua. I can't put down another shepherd again.”


Photo Courtesy of: 
Delaware Valley Vietnam Veteran War Dog Memorial  Committee 

Bristol Township Municipal Complex

2501 Bath Road, Bristol, PA

Buck County Courier Times




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