Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Dogs of War
Marines love their animals...always have, always will. One can travel halfway around the globe and still find a pet of some sort being cared for by Marines. Aboard the FOB's and bases in Iraq, you'll find stray cats or dogs being cared for by Marines, despite the general order expressly forbidding such behavior. Although the order was published to help deter the spread of disease, you'll always find a corpsman or armchair veterinarian willing to care for these pets.
That mangy dog or cat is simply a tangible reminder of home. It's often the only time a Marine will display any sort of emotion in public, always maintaining that "tough as nails" bravado in front of his buddies. Often, it provides the perfect amount of comfort to a Marine who has just returned from a tough patrol or mission in the field. I've spoken with Commanders who choose to "look the other way" when it comes to enforcing the order, the Commander fully aware of the incredible healing power of a tiny little animal. More importantly, they offer a small feeling of peace amidst the chaos of war.
As you can see - I, too, disobeyed the general order, if only for a moment.
A little mascot trivia...
The first officially enlisted Marine Corps mascot was an English bulldog christened Jiggs. Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler inducted him into the Corps as Private Jiggs with a formal ceremony on 14 October, 1922, at Quantico, VA. Eventually promoted to the ultimate Marine enlisted rank of Sergeant Major, Jiggs presented the Marine colors throughout the world, and was featured in the 1926 Lon Chaney film “Tell It To The Marines.” Upon his death in 1927, SgtMaj. Jiggs was interred with full military honors. His satin-lined coffin lay in state in a hangar at Quantico, surrounded by flowers from hundreds of Corps admirers.
For decades, official mascots were called “Smedley” to honor their first inducting sponsor, Gen. Smedley D. Butler. “Chesty” became the most used named beginning in the 1950's, to honor legendary Lt. General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller Jr. For decades, the canine crowd pleasers have been a formal and indelible part of Marine Barracks, Washington and the Marine Corps' image.
Commercial artists have picked up on the association between the Corps and the bulldog over the years and have immortalized it on T-shirts and coffee mugs. Although other animals have been used as unit mascots during the Corps' long history, it is the English bulldog that has remained a constant companion to the "Few and the Proud."