K9 Veterans Day, 2012
The First Annual Event

at PA Military Museum, State College, PA
Mar. 11, 2012

The K9 Veterans Day at the PA Military Museum began with singing by the Nittany Knights Barbershop Chorus (including the national anthem). K9 Officer Kris Hopkins (of the Working K9 Association of Central Pennsylvania, or WKACP) continued with the history of K9 Veterans Day. Magistrate District Judge Leslie Dutchcot and Captain Scott VanGorder were the guest speakers, and Myron Kyle read a poem. Then came the procession of handlers and their working dogs laying roses at the memorials to veterans of WWII and the Iraqi War while Officer David White sounded "Taps." The ceremony closed with Kris Hopkins giving framed certificates to Judge Dutchcot and Captain VanGorder in recognition of their work contributing to K9 Veterans Day.

The following two photos frame both the beginning and afterward. In between the two photos is the welcoming message from the K9 Veteran Day pamphlet.

Opening ceremony

Joseph White would be proud. He was the founder of K9 Veterans Day. As a Vietnam War Veteran and Military Working Dog (MWD) handler, he knew all too well the importance of a K9 partner. He worked right up until the time of his death in October 2009 to make sure there was a day to honor working K9s because of what the dogs had done in his life, but more importantly for what the dogs had meant to their many human counterparts and the many people who were saved by them.

Thousands of dogs have served since the U.S. Canine Corps was born on March 13, 1942. It is said that each MWD has saved an average of 100-150 military lives. Each one of those service members had another opportunity to make it home to their loved ones thanks to a dog. To return the favor, Joseph White selected March 13 of every year to be K9 Veterans Day so that we may never forget the MWDs who died for our freedom, the police dogs who walk the thin blue line between civilians and criminals, the search & rescue dogs who use their noses to locate the living or bring closure to the families who must live on, and even the veteran assistance dogs who bring life back to the men and women who have fought for our freedom and paid the high price with their own health and security.

Thank you for your presence here today and for your tribute to these dogs. It is not so much for the dogs as it is for their handlers who can now feel that there is someone else who remembers and cares for that special animal that was and is everything to them. This day is part of a healing process. This day is a way to make things right by lifting these four-legged heroes from the status of "surplus military equipment" or "a tool" to the status of "man's beloved counterpart in life" . . . better known as . . . "manís best friend."

Handlers and their dogs

I have two photo sets on Facebook that cover the event in its entirety. Finally, you can help by signing the petition in support of a proclamation for an Annual K9 Veterans Day on March 13 at change.org.

Look Out!   |   Chet Gottfried