This Veterans Day all military veterans, including the four-legged ones, deserve recognition.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal paid tribute on Monday to the Connecticut Army National Guard's 928th Military Working Dog Detachment. This unit is the only Army National Guard military working dog unit in the nation.
“These military working dogs are real heroes,” said Blumenthal during a press conference in Hartford, Monday afternoon.
Blumenthal, joined by Major General Francis Evon, honored the unit which currently has nine handlers and six working dogs.
“They are not tanks or rifles, they are living breathing heroes because they put themselves in harm’s way without a moment’s hesitation,” added Blumenthal.
Duties, many of which are classified, include searching for enemies, weapons and identifying danger. Handlers say they provide capabilities no machine can.
“Detection for human odor, detection for watching a convoy coming or the IED itself, machines can’t do that all the time on the spot like a dog can,” said military dog handler Sgt. Anthony Torri of Seymour.
Like every soldier, K9s are not immune to the stress and trauma of war. Those who have seen these four-legged warriors in action say PTSD is real, even for the dogs.
“A lot of times it can be very stressful and very scary for them even more so than for us,” said military dog handler Sgt. Nelson Struck of Southington.
Because of that, Blumenthal has advocated to enhance the rights of military working dogs and their handlers.
“Many of them have the same wounds of war. Particularly the invisible wounds of war that our soldiers do. Post traumatic stress is not limited to human beings,” said Blumenthal.
Seven-year -old Rexo and 11-year-old Ballou, both military dogs, were among those honored and when they retire, their trainers would like to see them treated with respect.
“They serve for years,” said Torri, “It’s all their life and they save lives. There’s no doubt about it.”