Memorial will celebrate K-9 contributions in war

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Veterans Memorial Park in Columbia is getting a new monument that pays homage to the four-legged troops as well as the two-legged ones.

The memorial is for war dogs and their handlers, like Johnny Mayo and his two sidekicks.

"They're working just as hard to save lives as the human is," said Mayo. "A lot of people respect them."

Back in 1969, Mayo was a war dog handler in Vietnam. He and his German Shepherd, Kelly, would lead groups of soldiers through the jungle. Out in front, Kelly sniffed out trip wires and enemy soldiers.

"It was a time when you didn't take any step for granted," said Mayo.

It was dangerous work Mayo is hoping to immortalize and honor with a bronze statue. Allen Marshall designed the monument and what he calls the Vietnam plaza.

"This war dog memorial is sort of the completion of the Vietnam plaza because of their major role in the Vietnam war," said Marshall.

Two hundred and ninety dogs were killed in that conflict along with 267 handlers. Mayo says they saved countless more as he's discovered after talking with veterans across the country.

"There are so many people who weren't dog handlers, who tell me about somebody's life being saved," Mayo said. "Until you've been there, you can't ever judge and see the dedication of K-9's."

That dedication will soon be on display.

Mayo says phase one of the monument should be complete in about a year and a half, but he'll need about $140,000 to get it complete.

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