Veteran's Day Report

by Jim Frost


Anxious eyes turned towards the skies early in the morning on November 11, 2003, in Phoenix, AZ. All weekend, reports of cloudy skies, cold ( for Phoenix! ) temps, and a strong possibility of rain kept repeating themselves over the airwaves. By Monday night, the reports were saying the rain probably wouldnıt hit Phoenix until the afternoon or evening. By 10:00 AM, an hour before the parade's official start, it was obvious the parade would prevail. The skies were virtually clear and temps already exceeded the forecast high for the day.

The Phoenix Veteranıs Day parade, sponsored by the City of Phoenix, the Carl Hayden Veteranıs hospital, and various local businesses was off to its 2003 start. The parade became an annual event in Phoenix in 1997, with two floats, a couple of bands, and about a dozen other entries. This year, over 100 entries participated in the event, which starts at the VA Hospital on Indian School Road and Central Avenue, marches south on Central to just past McDowell Road, two miles away. Five announcing booths and a review stand make sure people receive information about each entry in the parade.

Entry 41 in the parade was the Salute to the War Dog, representing the 4,000 canines who worked at your side in Vietnam. As we all know, these animals are credited with preventing an additional 10,000 US casualties, while almost 300 gave their lives, and less than 200 ever left country. The people need to know this and the dogs and their handlers need to receive the credit due them. That is the reason for this entry and our salute to these noble animals. The Grand Canyon German Shepherd Dog Club has been the primary sponsor of this entry for all three years. They have never let us down and this year was no exception. It is stunning to look at the entry as it is forming, and realize there were about FORTY people and their German Shepherd Dogs lining up to march two miles for people they have never met. That first year, they were wondering if they even deserved to march in the parade, since very few of them were veterans. I told them they had every right to be there, as representatives of the thousands of civilians who donated canines to the military for various war efforts. These folks have never asked why they are doing this, or how much is it going to cost. They have never grumbled or complained about the ³hurry up and wait² as we form up, move to our parade entry point, and stand and wait as the early entries go by. They have been great people who want to recognize these dogs, and to thank each and every dog handler for their allegiance and devotion to these dogs - they are amazed, but at the same time understanding that these dogs had such an effect on our lives. I thanked each one for being there....their response in most cases was...²No, thank YOU for letting us do this.² A fantastic group...these German Shepherd owners.

Joining this yearıs parade was Sam Stilson, 764th War Dog Hospital in Cam Ranh Bay, and Forrest Ashcraft, 633rd Security Force K9, Central Highlands. Each marched proudly with a dog at their side. Marching right along side both were Samıs wife, Lynda, and Forrestıs wife, Nancy to support their husbandıs memories, and salute their contributions as soldiers. The crowd was fantastic in greeting these guys as they marched down the Avenue. I would glance over at them, and the expressions on their faces said it all. Samıs dog reflected the pride we all had - he had the alertness and let's go get them attitude of a scout dog on point instead of just walking down the middle of a six-lane avenue. That dog knew he was doing something special. Our thoughts were also with guys like Ernie Ayala, Michael Glines, and Lee Stewart - handlers who wanted to be there, but were prevented from doing so for work or health reasons. We marched for them too. We marched for every man who has served as a dog handler in any war, and they were there too.

All in all, a magnificent time. While 40 dogs were there, 4,000 actually marched down the street that day, in spirit. Each of your dogs was there, too. They got to be regular German Shepherds that day...November 11, 2003......and they had a hell of a good time and the crowd recognized and appreciated their efforts.

All Photo's are the copyright of Jim Frost, and may not be copied or duplicated with out his permission.

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Created on 12/22/2003
By J.D.