Retired Vietnam veteran works to honor war dogs with monument
June 13, 2013 at 1:13 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 1:14 a.m.
Retired Air Force veteran Larry Chilcoat has carried Geisha's picture in his wallet for 43 years.
Geisha, a war dog, was assigned to Chilcoat during the Vietnam War in 1969. He still thinks about her.
"She and I bonded quickly," he said. "She had my back through the whole thing."
Chilcoat is unsure of what happened to Geisha after the war, but most dogs were just left in Vietnam after the United States pulled out, he said.
Chilcoat spoke Thursday during the Vietnam Experience Conference about protecting war dogs and a national monument being built in their honor. He said that it's his mission to get war dogs the recognition they deserve.
Dogs in warfare protect soldiers, he said.
The first official use of a dog for U.S. military purposes was during the Seminole Wars in the 1800s.
Today's war dogs help sniff out improvised explosive devices.
"When these guys go out with the dogs and see what they can do," Chilcoat said, "they don't go out without a dog again. They're that good."
Later this month, organizers will break ground at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for a monument for war dogs, and a dedication ceremony is scheduled in October.
"It's a culmination of a dream for me," Chilcoat said. "Dogs are barking in heaven."
Chilcoat said the $2 million project is almost complete but still needs funds.
"Our sponsors and the American people have been very generous, and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting very bright," he said.
"We're blessed to have these dogs out there protecting our troops who in return protect us," Chilcoat said.
"And they do it all for food, water, a toy and the loving touch of their handler."