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."


kbug said...

There's something incredibly calming about the affection of an animal...they can bring you such peace and make you smile, even when you're in a place that isn't conducive to that. My youngest son is over there now...not a Marine, but a Soldier...and he still asks about our cat that he used to torment when he was younger. I think he misses her...... :) When you think about it, knowing that Iraqis have pets like we do makes me think that maybe they aren't that different from us after all. Stay're in my prayers.

Mei-Ling said...

When my bro was in Al Asad as part of CLB-2 there was an orange tabby kitten by the name of..."Osama bin Kitten." It went missing after one of his buddys catnapped it from the mess hall and took it to the place where he worked in supply. So if you see a striped orange cat that answers to the name "Osama" take good care of it.

Samantha West said...

I always get a happy response from the Marines I write to when I include photos of my pets...Good post!

Carol said...


Such a heartwarming made my day. Animals stories are always fascinating. Everyone knows 'pets are good for you', and the therapeutic and emotional benefits of spending time with them can't be overstated. Anything that helps you all cope with the day to day stresses you brave soldiers experience HAS to be a good thing. So it's against orders to "conspire" with a pet, but hey, the kitty looks really relaxed and so do you.

Love the photo of the smoking dog. I find it funny that animals are always "willing" to be the good-hearted 'Butts' (bad pun, I know) of what people find amusing. Do you think animals ever exact "revenge" for what we subject them to? (LOL)

Great blog. Stay well and take care of yourself out there.


GleasonDeWitt said...

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