BAGHDAD - Military working dog teams from throughout Victory Base Complex came out April 13 for a ceremony at the division chapel to honor one of their own. Kevin, a military working dog, passed away due to complications from cancer. His death was unexpected and left the other half of his team, Staff Sgt. Aaron Meier, in limbo and in mourning.
While in theater, military working dogs are not replaced, so Meier will be reassigned to other duties for the remainder of his deployment. As Meier now turns his attention to new job responsibilities, most of his focus still remains on the loyal partner and friend he lost.
"Kevin was the highlight of my day," said Meier, a military dog handler, from Fairmont, Minn., assigned to Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
For more than four years, Meier and Kevin built an excellent working relationship together. "Kevin was a great patrol explosive detector dog," said Meier. "I could flip his on and off switch easily because of all the training we did together."
During their course of working together, the relationship developed further and formed a powerful, personal bond between them. "I was planning on adopting Kevin after this deployment," said Meier. "This was his last time deploying because of his age."
Though he never got to adopt him, Meier and Kevin still had many unforgettable moments together. "I pampered him a lot because a happy dog works better." Meier recalled the first time he gave Kevin a pillow to rest his head when they were together in a hotel preparing for a Secret Service mission. "Kevin had many human characteristics," Meier added.
Kevin's traits will always stick out in the minds of those who knew him. "He was very protective of Sgt. Meier," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper, kennel master at Camp Liberty, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. "Besides being a great detection and patrol dog, he was good for law enforcement purposes."
As one of the first dogs to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kevin's achievements were acknowledged during the ceremony. There were poems read in his honor, Taps was played by a 1st Cav. Div. trumpeter and military working dog teams left snacks in Kevin's bowl as a tribute to his service. "It is appropriate to honor their service," said Lt. Col. Barbara Sherer, from Springfield, Mo., 1st Cav. Div. command chaplain and co-coordinator of the ceremony. "Military working dogs are an important part of the military team and sometimes they are taken for granted."
That's a sentiment echoed by Staff Sgt. Jasper, "We consider dogs to be Soldiers too, they are constantly working." The ceremony gives credit to all the dogs and all the work they do here and in the United States, he added.
Military working dog teams are called upon often to perform their duties, so there is rarely a chance for teams from the different camps to see each other. Kevin afforded each team the opportunity to see in each other more of the common ground they share.
As Kevin's life, the attachment Meier had with him and the work they accomplished together were celebrated, new bonds formed among the Soldiers. They realized more the value of their military working dog teams and appreciated the chance for one of their own to be recognized.
-by Spc. Howard Alperin, MND-B PAO