Veterans Day (November 11 in the United States) honors and celebrates the service of all military veterans. With respect, honor, and gratitude: thank you for your patriotism, love of country, and willingness to sacrifice for the common good. You heard the call of duty and left the lives you knew to answer it.
When we think of veterans, we often think of our friends and family. But veterans also include dogs, horses, pigeons, elephants, mules, camels, bald eagles, and canaries. Animals worked alongside their human partners in trenches, in battles, and at sea. They detected danger, passed messages, rescued their human companions, ran supplies, fought in battle, and served as mascots, morale boosters, and comfort in a time of need. They helped keep their human companions safe and whole in body, mind, and spirit.
Veterans, we hope you know that our appreciation isn’t just hollow words for those of you who have given so much. The cost of serving is high and your service and sacrifice has earned much more than a single day. How can we honor veterans beyond Veterans Day? A few suggestions:
Stay aware of local, state, and national efforts to make sure veterans get the things they were promised for their service. Two things that come to my mind? College benefits and VA medical. We can do better. We should do better.
Record your story or listen to someone else’s story: https://storycorps.org/initiative/military-voices/. This is an amazing way to honor veterans. If you are a veteran and can, please contribute. If you aren’t a veteran, listen. This is just one of many stories:
Get help or donate to an organization that helps:
K9’s for Veterans Day: https://www.k9sforwarriors.org/. Help provide service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD.
Dogs on Deployment: https://www.dogsondeployment.org/. Support your troops by boarding their pets!
Show Your Stripes: https://www.showyourstripes.org/
Show Your Stripes helps connect veterans with jobs, generates awareness around the issue of veteran unemployment, and encourages businesses to hire skilled veterans.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: http://www.nchv.org/
Veterans are over-represented in the homeless population for a number of complex reasons. Learn more about this issue and how you can help.
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: https://www.taps.org/
Connect family members who have lost loved ones with others who understand and have been there.
Would you like to learn more about animal veterans? Our history is inseparable from the history of the animals we love and have brought everywhere with us, including to war. A few links:
Animals in War Memorial
War Dogs in Iraq
US War Dogs Association
The Dogs of the Vietnam War https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/opinion/the-dogs-of-the-vietnam-war.html. Photo credit: Sentry dogs with their handlers after patrolling near Da Nang in 1969.Credit: R.A. Elder/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images.
Pigeons of World War II
http://www.americainwwii.com/articles/pigeons-of-war/. Pigeons were used throughout World War II as supplemental and emergency means of communication. Their human handlers assigned many of them colorful names like Lady Astor, Pepperhead, and Holy Ghost, and they participated in the June 1944 Normandy Invasion.
The Animals of World War I:
http://bit.ly/2qEXe6X. These pictures are beautiful and sobering as they reveal the cost of war to humans and animals and the extent to which they kept one another alive from day to day.
This is an incredible story about a young man and the injured kestrel falcon that became his friend and companion — and eventually accompanied him to war and to POW camps, where she saved his life on at least two occasions. Thanks to David Edward Gates for the recommendation: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3364580-the-lure-of-the-falcon.