MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (September 06, 2013) – The military working dog community is tight-knit and connected. Military working dogs first entered the service in March of 1942 to serve in the Army’s K9 Corps. Today, dogs are still playing an active role in the search for explosives and taking down enemy combatants.
The Dawg Project, a group started by Vietnam-era veteran dog handlers, travels the country reaching out to those who work with dogs in the military.
The Dawg Project made a trip to the Combat Center for its 5th Annual Feed the Dawgs event, where the organizers cooked up steaks, remembered the fallen and talked about the working dog community to honor the handlers and those that served before them.
“It’s an honor for us to be a part of this,” said Sgt. Daniel Andrzejewski, kennel master, K9, Provost Marshal’s Office. “They’ve been coming here for years and it’s a great time for everyone.”
The Dawg Project travels mostly to military installations on the West Coast, hosting Feed the Dawgs events for working-dog handlers in every branch of service. They have been serving up steaks to dog handlers since 2008 and their fifth trip to Twentynine Palms marks the 89th event.
“We love coming out here and doing Feed the Dawgs in the stumps,” said Jon Hemp, Dawg Project co-founder. “People often forget about the Marines out here, so we make it a point to see these guys. We just want to give back because we know what they go through.”
For some of the Combat Center dog handlers, Feed the Dawgs has become a tradition. It’s a welcomed break for them and it gives these current handlers a link to the past.
“It‘s awesome to have these old handlers come here,” Andrzejewski said. “It’s also good for them to see what the program is like now. Now it’s totally different training and the dogs are different.”
During the event, old and new members of the K9 community united to revel in their history. They brought their friends and family and to enjoy a nice day and some steak with some of the dog handling community. Before they ate, members said a prayer and read the names of comrades they’ve lost, from all services, handlers and working dog alike.
“It’s an honor to come out here and do this event,” Hemp said. “Some people complain about having to come out here to 100-degree heat, but we have to remember that we send these guys 9,000 miles away in 112-degree temperature and ask them to put full gear on. So to the complainers, ‘I say shut up and show up.’ I’m very happy to do this and (the Marines) think it’s cool to see a combat veteran throw down a steak for them.”