A Hero's Tribute

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melanie Bulow-Gonterman
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Looking around MacDill Air Force Base, Florida it is easy to find tributes of fallen American heroes-- from Helton Hall, in honor of 1st Lt. Joseph Helton who was killed in action while deployed in Iraq to the Short Fitness Center named after Chief Master Sgt. Donald Short, popular for his extraordinary accomplishments over his 53 years of service to the Air Force.
However, if you look a little deeper at MacDill you might be surprised to see how far these tributes go.

LLeonard, 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, arrived to the base in early 2014. He was named after a war hero, Tech. Sgt. Leonard Anderson, who was severely injured in 2012 by an improvised explosive device blast while on a walking patrol in Afghanistan. MWD LLeonard is one of many service dogs named after American heroes.

As a result of the most recent conflicts, more than 25 dogs have been named after fallen/injured dog handlers from all branches of service.

"We are always looking for strong suitable names to match up with the dogs that have originated from our breeding program," said Dr. Stewart Hillard, 341st Training Squadron MWD evaluations and breeding flight chief.

For the last 10 years, these four-legged service members have been named after American heroes and notable icons, as well as, American states, cities and topographical features. The dogs are even named after other great dogs in history, both military and civilian.

"A dog's name is special, it's not just a tag," stated Hillard. "If a puppy grows up to be a special animal, capable of being a military working dog, the name should match. It should have a distinctive sound and normally be easy or lend itself a contraction that is easy to say for communication purposes."

Only dogs, like LLeonard, that originated from the breeding program at Lackland AFB, Texas are named after fallen heroes, American history, etc. The first letter of their name is duplicated to distinguish that they belong to the puppy program.

"By naming our dogs after fallen, heroes, American landscape, culture, mythology, family and friends we affirm what we are doing here--molding wonderful instruments of protection for use in defending our nation," said Hillard.