by: Carlos Cooper. Corps Justice.
Organization: United States War Dogs Association, Inc.
Interviewee: Ron Aiello
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION:
I served in the United States Marine Corps from 1964 to 1970. During that time I had the honor to be one of the first of thirty Marine Scout Dog Teams to be deployed to Vietnam.
It was the first time the the 1st. Marine Scout Dog Platoon was deployed since WWII.In 1998 while attending a Dog Show in Philadelphia, I met 4 other dog handlers who served in Vietnam.
I’d never met them in Vietnam.
Having the same interest in promoting Military Dogs, we decided to form the United States War Dogs Association.
In the year 2000 we formed our Military Non-profit organization.Our background in military War Dog service and our dedication to honoring the memory of the service and sacrifice of the US Military Working Dogs gives us a unique perspective thatwe use to educate the public on the history of Military War Dogs.
1. Education – With the use of our Traveling U. S. War Dog Exhibit, bring the history of all U. S. Military War Dogs from all Wars to the general public.
2. War Dog Memorial – Help raise funds to establish War Dog Memorials.
3. K-9 Corps Commemorative Stamp Drive – Sign on for petitions to have the Postal Service issue a commemorative stamp for all Military Working Dogs.
4. National Memorial – Help to establish a National War Dog Memorial in Washington, DC.
5. Support Through our fund raising: service dog organizations such as Military Working Dogs, Police K-9 units and Search and Rescue units.
6. K-9 Adoption – Help in the process of adopting retiring Military and Police Canines.
7. Support – Post-deployment outreach for returning troops.
What led you to serve in the military?
My grandfather served in the Marine Corps during WWI and my uncle Served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. I was always very proud of them for their service in the
Marine Corps and to our country. I felt it was only fitting that I follow in their footsteps to be a Marine and serve our country.Describe one of your fondest memories from active duty.
One of my fondest memories was when I was in Vietnam. My dog Stormy and I were leading a search and destroy mission. We stopped for the night and set up camp within a village.
It was the monsoon season and there wasn’t a dry spot in sight, just plenty of mud. I found an old box spring, and I mean spring because that was all that was left of the box spring.
I figured I could put my poncho on it so that Stormy and I could possibly get some sleep.One of the village men came over to us, trying not to get too close because of my dog Stormy. He didn’t want take a chance of getting bit. He motioned for me and Stormy to come tohis house and motioning something about eating. I realized he was inviting us to dinner. Stormy and I walked over to his home. Now you have to remember their homes were not like ours.
It was made of bamboo and straw. Most of the house was open with just the sleeping area enclosed.
Their dinning room was fully open with a old wooden table and four old wooden chairs. Both he and his wife motioned for me to sit at their table which I did with Stormy sitting by my side.
It was the man, his wife and two children. One was a little boy who must of been about 2 years old and a small child who was only a few months in age.
We all sat and had a fantastic stir fried dinner of mainly vegetables. It was wonderful.
During the whole meal we kept looking at each other, nodding our heads and smiling. It was our way of communicating.
Before leaving I gave the young boy some candy and gum and gave the man and his wife some c-rations that I was going to have that night.
Spending that hour or so with their family told me that I wasn’t wasting my time in Vietnam, that there were many families in South Vietnam who wanted us there.
That was one family who reached out to me and Stormy. It was their way of thanking us. It has been 47 years and I remember their faces and that hour we spent together.
I always think of them and pray that they stayed safe.
What was the most life-changing lesson you learned in the military?
The most life changing lesson was when two of my Marine comrades were killed in Vietnam. I had never lost a friend in war. It reminded me that we are not indestructible and
that life should not be taken for granted.What do you miss most about being in uniform?
I miss the unit cohesion of the Marine Corps.In your opinion, what are the most important traits of a hero?
A hero is someone who who would cover your Six, no matter the danger to themselves.
Honoring one of the many heroes.
If I gave you one-million dollars, how would you use it to help veterans?
I would set up a program to train canines to be service/companion dogs for the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces who are currently dealing with PTSD.
Thoughts from Carlos:
Thanks to Ron and the United States War Dogs Association for the all that they do. To hear Ron talk, you feel the passion, the drive to help. From finding homes for retired
dogs to raising funds to pay for lifetime prescription costs, these guys are the real deal.Please check out their website HERE and visit them on Facebook.Other ways you can help:
– Send care packages to teams serving overseas.
– Donate HERE
– Help with nationwide fundraisers
– Become a volunteer