Military News

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dover Airman and K-9 recognized at War Dog Memorial

by Airman 1st Class William Johnson
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

8/25/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- An Airman and his K-9 counterpart have been through it all together including a deployment where they were awarded the Bronze Star Medal for their support of Army Special Operations forces during their deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.

But in the distant future, long after each of their Air Force careers have ended, their memories and faces will remain a part of the first state. An image of Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg, 436th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler and trainer, and his MWD, Rico, was engraved into a new memorial that was unveiled at the War Dog Memorial Dedication event Aug. 22, 2015, at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park in Dover, Delaware.

The memorial is a 5-foot black granite stone from India and is engraved with an image of Spangenberg kneeling next to Rico. The memorial honors both MWDs and their handlers and can now be viewed at the memorial park.

"This is not only a tribute to the highly trained K-9s that have saved so many lives, but it is also recognition of their handlers from all branches and in all conflicts," said Joe Startt Jr., Vietnam Veterans of America Kent County Chapter 850 president.

Spangenberg, along with several other Delaware Law Enforcement officers and their K-9s, were present at the unveiling and he said it was privilege for him and Rico to be on the first War Dog Memorial in Delaware.

"There is nothing else like this in the state," said Spangenberg. "To have it here at Dover and have myself or any of the guys from the kennels on something like this is just awesome and it just shows what we've done as handlers."

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850 in Kent County made contact with Tech. Sgt. Jessica Johnson, 436th SFS kennel master, to have one of the handlers and their K-9 pose for the photo to be used on the memorial. Johnson said she could not think of a more deserving handler and k-9 than Spangenberg and Rico.

"I'm beyond honored and proud of them," said Johnson. "At first I think they [Vietnam Veterans of America] wanted just an image, but what they got are actual war heroes."

The event also featured a guest speaker, Bob Bliss, Vietnam War Veteran and former MWD handler who served with the Army's 212th Military Police Sentry Dog Company in Long Binh and Vinh Long, Vietnam between 1968 and 1970. Bliss spoke about his experiences in Vietnam and how his K-9, King, brought him comfort and safety in a time of uncertainty. He credits MWDs for saving numerous lives during the Vietnam War.

"If it weren't for the military working dogs that served in Vietnam, there would be many, many more names and very likely more panels added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall," he said when concluding his speech.

Spangenberg, in humbling manner, said the memorial means a lot more to him not just because he is on it, but because it represents all handlers, past, present and future.

"I'm not really about the accolades and the awards and the plaques, we just went out there to do our job," said Spangenberg. "However, I am honored that Rico and I are on it because it is something that will be here forever for the Dover kennels and future handlers to see."

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