Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it is sometimes called, is a federal holiday set aside to celebrate and honor United States men and women who have died serving their country in the military. Memorial Day originally began to honor and celebrate Union Soldiers who died during the American Civil War. It is customary to fly the U.S flag at half-mast from sunrise until midday, with many people visiting memorials and cemeteries to honor military people who lost their lives for their country, and remembering their loved ones who have passed on.

On Memorial Day it is appropriate to also pay tribute to our working military dogs who are loyal, heroic, save many lives and help many troops who just need a friendly touch to help boost their morale. Dogs do not have the option of enlisting in the military. Yet, after they are chosen and trained, they stand next to their handlers, willing to give their lives for the humans. When a war dog locates a bomb, or a large cache of weapons or explosives, or even deters an attack, we seldom hear about it. In fact, according to , until about the year 2000, most of the military dogs were actually left behind, literally abandoned. After the Vietnam War, documentation estimates that only about 200 of the 5000 war dogs returned to the U.S. Thankfully this practice changed when President Clinton signed a law allowing for the dogs to be adopted, and now the dogs are adopted to individuals, police departments or other government agencies. (To learn how to adopt and/or support retired war dogs, google “adopt military working dogs”.)

“Guardians of the Night” (author unknown) is a touching poem about military dogs that is often read at memorial ceremonies for our four-footed heroes:

“Trust in me, my friend, for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath.

When all others have left you, and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side.

My eyes are your eyes to watch you and to protect you.

My ears are your ears to hear and detect evil minds in the dark.

My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain.

And so you may live, my life is also yours.

Together we will conquer all obstacles, and search out those who might wish to harm others.

It is for you that I will unselfishly give my life, and fill my nights without rest.

Although our days together may be marked by the passing of the seasons,

Know that each day at your side is my reward.

My days are measured by the coming and going of your footsteps. .

 I am your right arm, the sword at your side, your defender and protector.

I attempt to do what you bid of me. I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.

Together you and I shall experience a bond only others like us will understand

I will listen to you without question, nor will your spoken words ever be repeated.

I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, always faithful and loyal.

When our time together is done, and you move on in the world,

Remember me with kind thoughts and tales of a time we were unbeatable.

If needed at another time and place,, I would gladly take up your fight.

I am a military working dog, and together we are guardians of the night.”

To those who courageously gave their lives, and those who bravely fight today, we say THANK YOU.