Now through January 8, 2024, visitors can experience Loyal Service: Working Dogs at War in the Museum’s Special Exhibition Gallery. Sponsored by The Army Historical Foundation, the exhibition features 16 wooden sculptures, including those of life-sized working dogs.
The featured sculptures were crafted by internationally renowned artist James Mellick. Some of the war dog sculptures exhibit the wounds their human counterparts received in battle, while other sculptures are carved replicas of specific dogs and illustrate their experiences in war.
“The Army Historical Foundation is proud to bring Mr. Mellick’s award-winning work to the Museum in recognition of the invaluable service of military working dogs in partnership with their handlers,” said Foundation President retired Brig. Gen. Burt Thompson. “Visitors will be struck by the emotional backstory of these sculptures and how military working dogs reflect the same Army values that Soldiers live by.”
Among their stories are dogs who served multiple tours on the frontlines, suffered catastrophic injuries in the line of duty, and gave their lives in the protection of their handlers. Their service records include rescuing service members from fiery waters during an air raid in World War II, chasing and subduing a gunman in a nighttime attack in Vietnam, and participating in special operations missions in Afghanistan.
“As we state in the title of the exhibit, ‘Loyal Service,’ we want visitors to connect with the idea that these dogs sacrificed their lives to protect service members during combat,” said Chief Curator of the National Museum of the United States Army, Paul Morando. “They willingly do that and serve side by side with their handlers. We want guests to recognize that these are seriously trained animals that can detect IEDs, attack enemy soldiers, and put themselves in danger to protect service members.“
Recently completed and on display for the first time is the sculpture “Cairo,” a large Belgian Malinois. Cairo deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 with a U.S. Navy Seal Team as part of Operation Neptune Spear. For their actions, the Seal Team members were awarded the Silver Star. In 2022, Cairo was recognized by the Animals in War and Peace with the Medal of Bravery.
Important Exhibition Note: Some exhibition sculptures depict images that could be sensitive for children and veterans. Visitor discretion is advised.