first published on February 27, 2017 by Josh
Corporal Max, a working dog that had completed certifications as a patrol and drug detector dog in October 2014 at Lackland Air Force Base, passed away unexpectedly in January of 2017 on Fort Polk. He had completed numerous training exercises and demonstrations on the base, and his loss impacted all of the soldiers in the 50th Military Working Dog Detachment, 519th Military Police Battalion who held a memorial service in his honor.
The loss of Max prompted the base to build a cemetery specifically for military working dogs. The 519th Military Police Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Kirk Whittenberger spoke on the necessity of animals like Max and their job within the military at the memorial service.
“From the command perspective, MWDs are viewed as an enabling force that provide specialized military police capabilities to combatant commanders, home station security and contingency operations. From the handler’s perspective, it’s about the loss of a team member — a team that has slowly formed over time, founded on a deep trust and sense of loyalty with an instinctive confidence, reinforced by endless training repetitions under the most difficult of environments. More simply, the handler and dog are dependent on each other to accomplish the mission and the loss of either abolishes their team.”
The kennel master, Sgt. Robert Neese, also spoke very highly of Max at the memorial.
“As soldiers, we are given the choice of whether or not to serve in the armed forces; Max was not given that choice. While Max’s career was short, it was full of potential and promise. I am thankful, and we should all be thankful, for the sacrifices that man’s best friends have made for our country.”
Shortly after the memorial service, the need for a service animal cemetery was addressed. Soldiers from the 519th Military Police Battalion spent the next few days constructing the cemetery directly across from the base kennels. They hope that in the future animals just like Max that pass away during military service will now be laid to rest in the company of heroes just like themselves.