ALL ABOARD THE FEELS TRAIN.
This past weekend, Iireland, 13, a bomb-sniffing dog who served two tours in Iraq, was laid to rest with one of the most unique funerals every held at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Kentucky. Anyone who ever served with Iireland or came in contact with her after she was retired says that Iireland was a truly special dog, one who touched the lives of countless people.
Iireland, a Belgian Malinois was given a 21-gun salute before being sent off to that great farm in the sky, a 21-gun salute complete with a horse-drawn caisson, a cannon, a trumpeter playing the traditional taps, and a crowd of tearful onlookers. Iireland’s handler, Sgt. Joshua Sutherland, had adopted the dog after Iireland’s second tour of duty was completed and Sgt. Sutherland told reporters that the death of his dog was “the toughest loss that I’ve ever had to endure.”
The memorial service had all the somber trappings of the many other military funerals held at Camp Nelson National Cemetery through the years: a lone trumpeter playing taps, the presentation of the flag to the family, a crowd of tearful mourners, a horse-drawn caisson, cannon fire and a 21-gun salute.
Iireland was born into the military working dog program at Lackland Air Force Base in March 2003.
She initially served in the breeding program, bearing a litter of six puppies in 2005, before being deployed for the first time to Iraq in 2007.
She returned home and was assigned to Sutherland in 2008.
The two patrolled for explosives for several months in Fallujah, Iraq, before returning to the U.S. in early 2009.
“Iireland on the job was just a ton of drive,” Sutherland said. “She would work until she’d die. There was no quit in that dog.”
With Iireland at his side, he said he was never concerned for his safety.
“If something was there, we were going to find it,” Sutherland said.
Iireland could not be buried at the national cemetery, but Col. Tracy Lucas, commander of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard, said he hopes some day there will be a place for canine veterans to be buried there.
“All of our war dogs deserve the same honor” as the people with whom they serve, he said.
Is it not complete and total bullshit that service dogs, genuine war heroes, cannot be buried in the National Cemetary? I don’t know enough about this topic to be truly outraged because there might very well be a legitimate reason for this rule, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that war hero dogs deserve a place in the National Cemetary alongside the soldiers they served with.
From everything I gathered about Iireland it sounds like she was a really good dog, and that’s all you can ask for in life, having a great dog by your side. She’ll be very missed.