Recently, it was my honor to finally meet MSG (Ret.) John Burnam—recipient of two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star Medal, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. Since John Burnam’s books were important references during my research for Follow His Lead, I reached out to him when the first advance review copies of my book arrived. I was quite thrilled when he returned my call and showed great interest in my book. It was then I learned how sincerely committed he is to letting all Americans know about these extraordinary K-9 warriors.
John is the author of A Soldier’s Best Friend, Canine Warrior, and founder of the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. This exceptional memorial to honor our Military Working Dog Teams required over two million dollars in donations to complete in 2013.
I sat down with John the night before his keynote address to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the monument. Listening to his stories about the years of work he and several associates invested to create the monument was fascinating. Then came a number of exciting war dog stories. The next morning, we were part of a large audience listening to this passionate storyteller, who helped bring national attention to the plight of thousands of military working dogs that served in Vietnam.
Only a fraction of the over four thousand dogs were brought back home from that conflict. But now, that will never happen again. Over 90% of our four-legged warriors are now brought back home to serve in law enforcement or be adopted by their former handlers or private citizens.
Only two weeks after my meeting with John, a woman approached me at a book signing to tell me her father did two consecutive tours of duty as a scout dog handler in Vietnam. The reason he reenlisted for that second year was because he couldn’t bear to leave his dog.