If you watched the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, you probably saw the Canines with Courage float dedicated to military dogs. It was sponsored by Natural Balance Pet Food and modeled after the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, scheduled to be dedicated in the fall. The float and monument honor American military dogs in World War II as well as the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
After the parade, I went behind the scenes and interviewed the people involved in creating this float. I also met some of today’s military handlers and their dogs — and I got to see the massive bronze sculpture representing the working dog teams.
I was amazed by the passion I saw in John Burnam, a decorated war veteran, scout handler, and founder of John Burnam Monument Foundation as well as Joey Herrick, president of Natural Balance Pet Food. Both men worked hard to make this memorial come to fruition, each accomplishing their goals for the monument in their own ways.
“Riding on the float humbled me,” said Burnam, his eyes beaming with pride, “seeing people standing and clapping, the mass of people was an experience that only happens once in a lifetime. I am honored to be part of this national monument.”
The completion of the bronze sculpture on Christmas Eve and the float in the parade on New Year’s Day represented a culmination of what Burnam has accomplished thus far. His military career began during the Vietnam War, where he volunteered for the 44 Scout Dog Platoon. There he was united with Scout dogs Timber and Clipper, whose memories inspired him to move forward with the memorial.
During war times, dogs are used as scouts, sentries, and trackers, and for search and rescue. Scout dogs like Timber or Clipper are trained to be alert to foreign sounds and smells. A scout dog works out in front of the patrols, the handler just behind watching the dog’s body language at all times. Just behind are two bodyguards who protect the handler.