The first United States national monument honoring the work of dogs in combat was dedicated this week at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The bronze statue stands 9 feet tall (2.7 meters) and features a soldier surrounded by four dogs, with the words "Guardians of America's Freedom" inscribed at the base of the monument, reported Reuters. Since 1958, dogs have been trained for all branches of the military at Lackland Air Force Base.
"These dogs were patriots just as much as anybody else who served," John Baker, a military dog handler from Fallon, Nev., told Reuters.
Dogs have a long history in warfare, and were most commonly used as scouts, trackers and sentries in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In Afghanistan and Iraq, combat dogs were trained to help troops sniff out bombs and other roadside explosives, according to Reuters. In 2011, a Belgian Malinois military dog famously accompanied U.S. Navy SEALs on Operation Neptune Spear, during which Osama bin Laden was killed.
"Dog units are worth a million dollars for everything they do," John Burnam, who handled dogs during the Vietnam War, told Reuters. "You can't say enough, you can't give enough accolades to them."