Menendez Announces First-of-its-Kind Legislation to Honor Service, Sacrifice of Military K9 Teams

Menendez Announces First-of-its-Kind Legislation to Honor Service, Sacrifice of Military K9 Teams


HOLMDEL, NJ – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today announced legislation to create the first ever official Department of Defense (DOD) commendation for military working dogs (MWDs) and their handlers.  The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal recognizes the valor and meritorious achievement of these highly trained and skilled teams and would be issued by each branch of the military to honor their extraordinary service and sacrifice in defense of this nation.    

“Military working dogs deserve more than a pat on the head and a treat.  They are soldiers and veterans and should be honored with the teams they serve,” said Sen. Menendez.  “If we, as a nation, can strap a Kevlar vest on a dog and send it into battle, then we should be able to pin a medal to its collar.  It’s time we give these guardians of freedom and their handlers the recognition they deserve.” 

There is currently no official recognition for military K9 teams, despite their growing role and reliance within the modern military.  They serve on the frontlines detecting improvised explosive devices, leading search and rescue operations, locating casualties, guarding supplies, and patrolling secured perimeters.  Most critical, they have put their lives on the line to save countless men and women in uniform serving at their side.

The following New Jersey MWD handlers have been killed in action:

  • Charles Paul Brown, Army, South Amboy
  • Benjamin Mason Jr. USMC, Piscataway
  • Claude Joseph Gaspard, Army, Short Hills
  • James Allen Jonson, Army, Jersey City
  • Alden John Bullwinkel, Army, Dunellen
  • Richard Edward Ford, Army, Surf City
  • Robert William Elliot, USMC, Woodbury
  • David Alan Nudenberg, Army, Caldwell
  • Christopher Zeno Czarnota, Army, Perth Amboy

The Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal gets its name from the inscription etched into the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument located at the DOD’s Military Working Dog Program headquarters at the 341st Training Squadron stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lakeland in Texas. 

“Senator Menendez’s legislation to honor military working dogs and their handlers with an official military service commendation is a dream come true for these men, women and their K9s who put their lives on the line every day while deployed to the Middle East and other frontlines around the world,” said Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dog Association.  “As for myself, it has been a long, ten-year journey in seeing this become a reality.  It is very gratifying to see this accomplished.”

Sen. Menendez announced during the tenth anniversary rededication ceremony of the United States War Dog Memorial in Holmdel, N.J. that he will introduce the measure next week. 

military dogs

MWDs have been on the front lines of American conflict since World War I, when Sergeant Stubby, a short brindle bull terrier mutt, served in the Army’s 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division.  Sergeant Stubby is credited with capturing a German spy, comforting wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and saving the lives of countless doughboys by sniffing out poison gas and barking warnings to the men in the trenches.  His exploits are immortalized in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. 

The ranks and roles of MWDs have gradually expanded since, and have been integrated into each military branch’s critical operations.  Perhaps the most notable of late is Cairo, a highly intelligent and fearless Belgian Malinois and member of Navy SEAL Team 6, who participated in the May 2, 2011 raid of Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound.

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Press Contact

Steven_Sandberg@menendez.senate.gov