News: ‘Feed the Dawgs’: vets honor K9 handlers
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
MARINE CORPS STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. - Lance Cpl. Wayne Williams grinned as Gunnery Sgt. Jose Maldonado served him an important steak.
The “Feed the Dawgs” organization was proud to have Maldonado, 3rd Platoon Watch Commander with the Provost Marshal’s Office here, present Williams, a military working dog handler at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., their 1,000th steak here Oct. 30.
Feed the Dawgs, which uses “dawgs” to differentiate the dogs from their handlers, has travelled to bases across the southwest for the past three years to serve dinner plate-sized steaks, bratwurst and various sides for MWD handlers from every branch of the armed service.
“They do it to honor the dogs, and feed the handlers,” said Sgt. Tiffany Sturgell, the kennel master at MCAS Miramar, Calif.
When co-founder Jon Hemp began participating in the Vietnam Dog Handlers’ Association, he was frustrated.
“I wanted it to be more military-focused,” said Hemp, an Air Force veteran military working dog handler of the Vietnam War. “They lost the ‘war-dog’ in the process.”
Hemp, along with co-founders Mike Mizak and Ron Carlton, decided to take their cause directly to the MWD handlers when they first “fed the dawgs” at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 2007.
“It went from one barbecue per year, to visiting 14 different bases throughout the southwest,” said Hemp.
Hemp emphasized the importance of fostering camaraderie between all MWD handlers.
“It’s a small community, we’re different,” said Hemp. “We might be a little bit crusty around the edges, but we know what they’re going through.”
“Dog handlers past, present and future: the most common thing we have is our dogs,” added volunteer Norm Ream, a former U.S. Army working dog handler and Vietnam veteran.
Miramar’s working dog handlers, as well as their families and the volunteers from Feed the Dawgs, spent the bright afternoon enjoying fresh the steak and sharing stories.
“My dog’s claim to fame was biting the commander’s butt,” Ream declared with a sideways grin.
Ream added the importance of honoring the dogs, as well as the “dawgs.”
“There are 58,000 names on that wall,” said Ream, of the Vietnam War Veterans’ Memorial. “Without the dogs, there would have been another 10,000.”
“I’ve been [away without leave] for 40 years,” said Hemp, who did not participate in any veterans groups following his service in Vietnam until he helped found Feed the Dawgs. “I’ll keep doing this.”
The final event for 2010 is scheduled Nov. 20 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
For more information about Feed the Dawgs, visit www.feedthedawgs.com
The “dawgs” have now served more than 1,000 steaks to smiling handlers, but they claim it is only a small “thank you” for the dedication and sacrifices made by MWD handlers around the world.
Feed the Dawgs will continue to provide delicious afternoons for military working dog handlers.