Saturday, April 18, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ K-9 Kevin & SSG Aaron Meier

A memorial tribute honors a fallen comrade April 13 at Camp Liberty. "Military working dogs are an important part of the military team and sometimes they are taken for granted," said Lt. Col. Barbara Sherer, from Springfield, Mo., 1st Cav. Div. chaplain. "It is appropriate to honor their service."

Staff Sgt. Christopher Jasper, kennel master for Camp Liberty, attached to DSTB, 1st Cav. Div., addresses Soldiers at a ceremony to celebrate the life of one of their own, April 13, at Camp Liberty. "We consider the military working dogs to be Soldiers too," said Jasper, from Everett, Wash. Jasper read the poem, 'I wait by the gate,' in honor of Kevin.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Meier, a military dog handler, sits somberly during a ceremony highlighting the life of his deceased partner, Kevin, April 13 at Camp Liberty. "Kevin was my buddy. He was affectionate, very protective and an excellent worker," said Meier, from Fairmont, Minn., assigned to Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division

Soldiers and their military working dog partners take time to pray in honor of Kevin, a military dog who succumbed to cancer. "It was a good memorial, they don't happen often for the dogs," said Sgt. Matt McCummins, a military dog handler, attached to DSTB, 1st Cav. Div.

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

3 comments:

Sarge Charlie said...

We have no idea how many soldiers are alive today because of their dogs, I tip my hat to this hero.

AirmanMom said...

Thank you for this important post!
~AM

Buck said...

The "normal" bonds one forms with a dog are MOST significant, and the passing of one's best friend is a sad time, indeed. I can only imagine how much worse it is for a the handler of a military working dog team... "handler" being not quite the term that describes the relationship. Not even close.

Thanks for this, Cynthia.