Celebrate Freedom’s recent festival was the fitting debut for Johnny Mayo’s long awaited book honoring the thousands of war dogs that saved human lives, beginning in WWI. The hero in Mayo’s newly released book is his own canine companion. Buck has become synonymous with military working dogs throughout contemporary history.
The book’s illustrator, Tonia Marynell who, inspired by the story of the war dogs, offered to create the images needed to bring Mayo’s stories to life on page.
While the book, Buck’s Heroes , had been greatly anticipated, it was not the most sought after entity at the festival. Buck, in living fur, was beside Vietnam veteran SP4 Mayo as he had been in many other challenges over the years. When Buck is on the scene, the blue–eyed huskey magnetizes children and adults alike, and this year’s Celebrate Freedom Festival was no different.
“Children pat him, love on him, all day long,” Mayo said. For some years Mayo and Buck have been part of a living history exhibit set up to teach the public how military dogs and their handlers sacrificed and contributed to the preservation of freedom.
One grandparent who purchased a book during Celebrate Freedom for her grandchild emailed Mayo to tell him what reaction the book had generated. “She said her little granddaughter put her face down on the page where Buck was pictured and put her cheek right up to his image.”
Comparable love and response has driven Mayo to be an advocate for national recognition of war dogs’ contributions. Although Mayo’s military years are long behind him, his experience as a dog handler is as much a part of him today as when he walked point in Vietnam.
Dog handlers’ pride in their dogs is legendary, and Mayo’s pride had put him out front in this ongoing endeavor, as advocate and now as author. He is the only handler who brought his dog with him to the most recent bi–annual reunion of dog handlers.
Although there have been other books authored about war dogs, Mayo believes his is the first to be told through the dog’s point of view. While this literary approach makes the book very reader–friendly for children, Buck’s Heroes is really a book for everyone who loves America.
Mayo and Marynell will be at Happy Bookseller at 5 pm, December 9 with more copies of Buck’s Heroes .