News: Ceremony honors military service
Story by Andrea Stone
FORT CARSON, Colo. - He deployed four times to Iraq, and on one of those tours, was chosen to guard President George W. Bush when he visited Baghdad in 2008. He saved lives, and on Saturday, June 22 his life was celebrated and his death mourned in a memorial service at the American Legion Post 38 in Fountain, Colo.
MWD Emir H323 may have been four-legged, but the Air Force working dog, adopted by a retired Fort Carson soldier, garnered respect.
“They (military working dogs) are warriors too,” said Daniel Cisneros, assistant state captain, Colorado Patriot Guard Riders. “They are soldiers, and they need to be identified and recognized and given the respect and honor due. They save lives.”
The Patriot Riders escorted Emir’s owner, Lanai Singh, to the memorial service.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this for the working dogs,” Cisneros said.
Emir was retired from Kirtland AFB, N.M., with a back injury and adopted by Singh 17 months ago. Singh, who was medically retired as a specialist from Fort Carson in 2010, waited through her time in the Army to adopt a dog.
When Singh knew she wouldn’t be deploying anymore, she decided to start adopting retired military dogs. Emir was the second of three she’s adopted. She also fostered one.
The wait list to adopt military working dogs is long, and only about 300 dogs are retired each year, Singh said.
The dogs fall under two categories – patrol dogs and specialized search dogs. The search dogs are easier to place because they are generally less aggressive, she explained.
“I prefer to adopt the patrol dogs so that the other dogs can have families and children,” she said.
The use of military working dogs dates back to World War II with the establishment of the “K-9 Corps” March 13, 1942.
After Vietnam, when the troops came home, the dogs were usually left behind to face an uncertain future.
All that changed in November 2000, when President Bill Clinton signed into law House Resolution 5314, which allowed military working dogs to be adopted.
“On average, every military dog saves 150 lives,” Singh said. “Now there are 3,000 military dogs in the K-9 Corps in all military branches. So, 3,000 times 150, that’s how many lives have come back, saved because of a war dog. That’s a lot of people.”
Emir, through his owner, had his own Facebook page with more than 1,500 likes.
When Emir died, Singh was looking for a way to honor his life, so she turned to the dog handlers at Fort Carson.
“(She) first came to us seeking help because the dog had just passed,” said Capt. James Powers, commander, 69th and 148th Military Police Detachments, 759th Military Police Battalion. “It originally started out with us doing a ceremony because we had just done one for one of our dogs. We had the script. We had the protocol down. But she started getting more and more people saying they were coming.”
When there were concerns about space, Singh decided to move the ceremony off post.
“We just wanted to help her out in any way we could,” Powers said.
The role of military working dogs was highlighted during the service, with representatives from the Federal Protection Agency and two of their working dogs attending.
“(I) can attest to the courage of these dogs on a daily basis,” Powers said. “I know how much we appreciate these dogs in service to us, helping us.”
Emir was remembered, not only for his military service, but also his time as a service dog for his owner, who attends Pikes Peak Community College.
“Emir had a calming effect on the veterans, … and he was very protective,” said Vicki Furaus, certifying official, Veterans Affairs at PPCC.
At the end of the memorial service, Emir’s last will and testament was read: “Thanks to everybody who made the last year and a half one of the most exciting and happy times of my life. Every day was joyful and I will watch over you as Angel Emir.”