War dog celebrates 15th birthday in Columbia
In recent years, Buck and I have met friends at the USC football game's halftime Veterans' celebration in 2001 and 2002, the annual Vista Lights Nites each fall, the annual Veterans Day Parade and all events sponsored by the Celebrate Freedom Foundation.
Buck will be 15 years old, and we are planning a celebration of his life at the Animal Supply House, 7519 Garners Ferry Road, March 18, from 10 am-2 pm. The event is sponsored by the Celebrate Freedom Foundation.
Buck stepped into the story of the War Dogs six years ago when we visited the Vietnam Wall for the first time during a national dog handler reunion. That day became the setting for Buck's Heroes, a book about the spirits of the War Dogs during the Vietnam War written by me and Buck. I was a scout dog handler with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam (1970-71).
Buck's health has changed somewhat in the last couple months, and he is limited in traveling long distances. For this reason, a number of his heroes will come by the event to see him.
We will be publishing another book in the future where Buck will be telling the stories of some of his human heroes and friends, military and civilian. This husky has had an impressive ability to reach all ages - toddlers, seniors, and everyone in between as a link to the War Dogs. His legacy will continue on with a special chapter of his life after his death. He will be buried beside the Official Military Mascot of the 82nd Airborne (1944-1961), Satan's Angel III, a cocker spaniel that had 16 parachute jumps with the 82nd Airborne.
The past two years Buck kept me busy with the book and trips as far as Phoenix, AZ, and New York City in Sept. In 2005, we had visits with Governor Sanford in his office. I sponsored our state's first "Military Dog Teams Day" proclamation in 2005 and had dog teams from Fort Jackson, Shaw, and Charleston AFBs present honoring the military dog teams, past and present.
In 2004, I accepted on behalf of the "Vietnam War Dogs - Hero Dog of the Year" award in the SC Animal Hall of Fame ceremony sponsored by the SC Veterinarians Association at the Myrtle Beach Conference.
Life before the War Dogs for Buck consisted of a special fondness for West Virginia, hiking and canoeing many of our state's rivers, dozens of trips to our local Saluda River running and playing on the rocks, but Buck's favorite was the Chattooga River.
When not watching me as I built my log house in the mountains of Oconee County, he often would sit watching from his favorite spot in the bow of the yellow canoe as a sign he wanted to go to the river. He was quite the white water adventurer as we canoed and camped along the upper stretches of the Chattooga River many times and shared the campsite together on the wild and scenic river. Buck was given his name from one of my favorite stories, Call of the Wild ...And he has represented his namesake well.