With the holidays right around the corner, American soldiers will be preparing to get tons of care packages with all sorts of food and goodies. But they won't be the only ones getting surprises.
Thanks to an organization called the U.S. War Dogs Association, pups in combat (yes, they exist!) will get special care packages of their own. President Ronald L. Aiello, who served in Vietnam in 1966, began the organization to support military dogs who are overseas, and send them care packages with supplies and treats.
It's called Operation Military Care K-9.
"I wanted to make sure that we let these dog teams know that we back in the States support them and wish them a safe return," Aiello told A Plus.
Since its founding in November 2002, it has sent more than 20,000 packages to the dogs, who are primarily made German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador retrievers.
So what does a military dog need? Turns out, a lot.
"We have a standard care package, which includes items such as dog boots, Doggles, Kong toys, rope tugs, dog treats, dog Shampoo, eye and ear wash, dog sanitation bags, grooming tools (FURminators)," Aiello told A Plus. "We also include items for the handlers: snacks, hygiene products, writing material, and reading material.
He also said that the organization takes requests for new leashes, collars, and cooling vests.
Anyone can see the full list of suggested supplies on its website, which also details where and how to send a package.
According to the U.S. War Dog Association, dogs have been used in military combat dating back to Ancient Rome. The U.S. really started using dogs to sniff out enemies and bombs in the 1940s, and continues to do so today.
They face the same risks and sacrifice their health and their life as human soldiers do. They serve 10 to 12 years and, when they retire, can be adopted by their handlers or nonmilitary families. Some are even honored for their service when they come home, such as Lucca, a military dog who served two tours in Iraq and lost a leg while sniffing out explosives.
These reasons are why Aiello feels these dogs deserve to get the help and love like any other soldier would.
"Our organization is not political — some of us agreed with going into Afghanistan and then Iraq, and others did not agree — but one thing we had in common was the support of our troops and we were going to make sure that they new we supported them," he said.