by Ashley Bouwense
The All Veteran’s Memorial (AVM) at Turkey Brook Park in Budd Lake held its Memorial Day Remembrance program Mon., May 30.
The memorial’s latest addition, the War Dog Memorial, was dedicated during the program, and the first Australian war dog’s handler, retired U.S. Army Corporal William “Bill” Wynne, gave the keynote address.
The day started at 10:30 a.m. with dedications at the War Dog Memorial, where the five war dog statues were donned with a medal of honor for their heroic service. The four-legged heroes were all original in their breeds, the wars in which they served and in their missions.
The following war dogs were memorialized at the AVM site:
Sergeant Stubby, a bull dog and boxer terroir mix from WWI and first official U.S. war dog; Smoky, a Yorkshire terroir from WWII and Australia’s first war dog and the first official therapy dog; Nemo, a German shepherd combat sentry war dog from the Vietnam War; an unnamed Doberman pincer who represents all unnamed war dogs from the Korean War; and Gabe, the yellow lab, IED war dog who served in the Iraq War.
To find out more details about the dogs featured at the memorial, visit the AVM site, at www.allveteransmemorial.org.
It took two years to complete the memorial. Charlie Wood Uhrmann, originator/founder of the AVM, explained, “Not only did we want to show the heroism of each dog, we wanted to make the memorial educational and historically accurate.” The dogs were placed in a scene specific to their story. For example, Smoky is placed by a replica of the pipe she crawled through under enemy lines in WWII to send a critical message to U.S. troops.
“This is not your typical war memorial,” Uhrmann said. “It is a piece of art, but it looks like an actual warzone, with barbed wire, fox holes and rugged terrain.”
Karl Meier, owner of Meier Stone Company in Flanders, supplied and created all the props for the memorial, and Ashley Bogosta created the five war dog statues.
There was time after the ceremony for the public to stop by military vehicles on display; K-9 demonstrations; educational military displays and booths to benefit and support veterans, families and survivors.
At 11:20 a.m., the ceremony commenced. The morning sun shone through the clouds with bright ferocity on the AVM—a natural tribute to the fallen and their enduring service and loyalty to their country. It was a time of solemn remembrance for the country’s heroes; a beautiful service honoring those who selflessly gave their lives so that the people of the U.S. can stay protected and free.
The processional march included the Mt. Olive High School (MOHS) Marching Band, Color Guard and MOHS DECA.
Susan Smarth, owner of recently diseased IED, bomb-sniffing war dog, Sargent Rowan Smarth, paid tribute to her and her family’s beloved friend. After his war service, Rowan was brought back to the U.S. and taken under the care of the Smarth family.
One of the creators of the memorial, Eric Wood, also spoke. He presented a bouquet of lilies to Christy Burkhart, widow of the fallen soldier, Armor Burkhart, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Armor will never be forgotten,” Wood said. “He is a hero we honor today.”
After a dance performance by members of the Flanders’s Theater Dance Center and a presentation of flowers to the fallen heroes by the Mt. Olive Girl Scouts, Bill Wynne gave his keynote address—his final public address— to the crowd.
“Thank you all for coming out today,” Wynne began. He gave everyone an idea of what it was like in WWII, both at home and in the Pacific:
“The civilians of the United States did an outstanding job and never got the credit for it,” Wynne said. He continued to explain how America was totally unprepared for the war, with barely any navy ships or airplanes to fight when the U.S. entered, but how the American public, especially the women, rallied together to further the war effort.
Then, Wynne explained how he fought in the Pacific Theater as a U.S. Army corporal with Smoky by his side.
“There were twelve of us who were being sent over to a combat mission, and we were all fighting over Smoky; we all wanted her.”
Smoky was Australia’s first war dog, originally found abandoned in a fox hole in New Guinea.
“Smoky was in the war for 24 months and was in 18 months straight of combat,” he said.
Wynne wrote a biography of Smoky which also included his memoirs of his called, “Yorkie Doodle Dandy: A Memoir,” published in 1996. Wynne admitted that there were details about Smoky that he had never known before writing the book, like how she ended up in New Guinea, and he hopes to write another book about his war comrade with the new information. A book signing took place after the ceremony.
After Wynne’s address, Bogosta presented him with her creation: a life-sized statue of Smoky in a war helmet, an appropriate set-up, as this was how Wynne frequently carried the small pup.
The ceremony concluded with the laying of the memorial wreath and a benediction by Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Walsh.
“We pray for the military, the wounded, the fallen, the families, the current servicemen and for ourselves,” he prayed. “Lord, give us peace. Amen.”
In his opening prayer, Walsh quoted from Scripture, John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This Bible passage is what the AVM Day of Remembrance was all about: honoring those who selflessly laid down their lives for others: for families, friends and even strangers. Their loyalty to their country will not be forgotten.
“When you see a veteran or someone who lost a fallen hero, thank them,” Uhrmann urged. “They are the reason we are free.”