War Dog memorial dedicated in Lake Orion

The newest addition to The Orion Veterans Memorial in Lake Orion was unveiled Saturday, The War Dog Memorial.

The monument features two military war dogs on sandbags next to the American flag. The words "defender," "protector" and "friend" sit underneath the dogs. It's a tribute to the significant part canines play in the military, which often goes untold.

"I hope they have more of a respect for war dogs and how many lives they have saved, and shorten the years of war," says Dr. Joe Mastromatteo with the Orion Veterans Memorial.

From World War II to Vietnam, to the current War on Terrorism, organizers say war dogs continue to play an important role that saves lives.

Skip Bushart, a now-retired member of the U.S. Air Force, says he trained with a canine and knows the importance of having a dog on the battlefield.

"Canines have a such a sense of smell that is 100 times more sensitive than a human, and, when you're out in the field, they can alert you to anybody else out in that area hundreds of yards before you'll even know it," he says.

Saturday's dedication ceremony featured a salute by retired war dogs, and stories that brought many to tears.

Organizers hope that many more memorial sites across the country will start to include a memorial to the war dog.

"It's a good tribute to them because they're canine warriors; they fought alongside men and women in uniform for years and they need to be recognized and respected for what they did," says Phil Weitlauf with Michigan War Dog Memorial, Inc.

Organizers say they've collected nearly $30,000 in donations but much more is needed to complete payment for the memorial.

If you'd like to make a donation, you can do so online at www.orionveteransmemorial.com.