Lay Sgt. Stubby to Rest: Intern remains of most decorated US war dog at Arlington Cemetery
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In paramilitary organizations, animals have for a long time held an interesting status. While people would be crazy to appoint an animal to most elected offices and public service professions, certain animals have played instrumental roles in organizations such as law enforcement, the fire department, and the military. Many of these brave critters have done their duties in exemplary fashion, just as well as any human could, and in some ways that humans cannot. For example dogs can use their sense of smell to sniff out many things such as drugs, weapons, explosives, electronic equipment, and even live humans or human remains. Horses are occasionally used by some police departments for crowd control and for agility. Dolphins have been trained by the US military to plant bugs and bombs on enemy ships. Before humans went to space, some of the great apes were the test pilots in early spacecraft and space-related experiments. Pigeons, bats and rats have been used to send messages in the past, and even flies have been used to spy on the enemy. Of all the animals who have served, some have lived up to the highest ideals by saving the lives of civilians and their comrades alike, acting with fortitude in moments of great danger to themselves, and in some cases even making the sacrifice of their own lives in commitment to public service ( for example, Diesel, the Belgian Malinois who lost her life during the raid in Saint-Denis, after the 2015 Paris terror attacks). Because of their capacity to serve the public in these roles, some animals have had the opportunity to attain ranks and receive awards for their heroic actions. In a legal sense, many animals hold status as law enforcement officers or military personnel ( for all intents and purposes, our war dogs can be considered enemy combatants, and hitting a police horse or dog will give you a charge of assault on a police officer). Notable military dogs, such as Antis (WWI), Rags (WWI), Chips (WWII), Smoky (WWII), Rex (Afghanistan), and Diesel (KIA, War on Terror), have all received a proper burial. The Dickin Medal (Britain) and PDSA Gold Medal (Britain) are awards specifically given to dogs with the Dickin being the equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the Kingdom's highest military order. In the United States, there is the Lois Pope K-9 medal of courage, which is equivalent to the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration (named after an American philanthropist).
A few days ago, my best friend and I went to see the movie Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. The film depicts the WWI service of Stubby, a dog of unknown breed whose decorated career included exploits such as finding and locating wounded soldiers in no man's land, aiding in the capture of an enemy soldier, warning his brothers in arms of artillery and poison gas attacks, and even being wounded twice, yet returning to the frontline after each time. His bravery made him the only US war dog who was given the rank of Sergeant. He even knew how to stand at a attention and salute.
Because of this, Sgt. Stubby is an American hero and should have been buried with his fellow soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. But this was not to be. Instead he was taxidermied and his remains were placed on display at the Price of Freedom exhibit at the National Museum of American History. For all his heroism and courage it was not enough for him to be gutted, stuffed and posed like a common hunting trophy. While I understand that it is important to raise awareness of Sgt. Stubby and his fellow servicemembers, the use of his body as a museum prop is not the fate that should befall any creature who has served our nation in such a capacity. The disrespectful taxidermy of Sgt. Stubby is an affront to the nation; his actions, not his stuffed form, are The Price of Freedom. If this soldier was a human, it would be unthinkable to put his preserved remains in a museum. And while he may be a dog, he fought for this nation just as any person would, maybe a little better. There must be greater equality.
And so, I am writing, on behalf of everyone who signs, a respectful request for the Smithsonian Institution to remove the remains from display and release them to Arlington National Cemetery, whom I am asking to receive the remains as they would any good soldier, and give them a proper hero's burial. I hope this is not too much to ask for a dog who served so valiantly in defense of the nation and its forces. Other dogs have been buried with military honors, so why not Sgt. Stubby?
It would make sense to me that Sgt. Stubby be buried with one of the units he belonged to ( 102nd Infantry Regiment and 26th Yankee Division). However; if it is seen as disrespectful by any family members of those buried there that a non-human animal be given the same burial, I ask that this plea be honored as well. In that case, perhaps Stubby should be buried elsewhere in the cemetery, in a small, separate plot where other service animals are interned (which could be established and topped with a small memorial to all animals that have served), or perhaps next to his owner and fellow soldier, Robert Conroy, who is located in West Palm Beach. In any case, Stubby's grave should not be left unmarked, and he should have some sort of memorial marker, no matter how small. I'm sure my supporters would be happy to chip in for one, as would I.
All I ask is that the Smithsonian respect Sgt. Stubby by properly laying his hide to rest. And now, 100 years after this brave dog's service, with the release of his own feature film, I don't believe there could be a more fitting time. Make no mistake; the exhibit is very important I am sure, and the sergeant is certainly an important addition. In 1957, when Conroy donated the Sergeant's remains, I bet that was the respectful thing to do; It is definitely a better end than many of his canine brethren have received, in that day and to this day. But the ever-evolving and current sentiment implores that it is not right to display the mortal remains of an American hero behind glass in a museum. I'm sure it is also costing you a great deal to maintain the 100-year old pelt of Sgt. Stubby. Given that the likeness of Stubby is crucial to the exhibit, I'm sure there is nothing wrong with making a lifesize model, wax figure or realistic replica of Stubby, provided that it is not Stubby's actual remains and my supporters could also donate to this cause as well. With modern technology, I bet the likeness of Sgt. Stubby could be created with incredible detail and vividness, so that there is virtually no superficial difference between the remains and the replica.
I won't argue semantics here, such as if Stubby should be buried in his original uniform or if the museum should keep that and have him buried with a replica, or where exactly he could be buried, or if the Smithsonian could keep him if they put him in a coffin and asked for silence. I ask that the other service animals the museum has on display, such as Cher Ami the messenger pigeon, be removed and buried as well. It is only right. Please note: I am not asking that non military animals on display be removed, only those with distinguished service (you can keep Owney on display at the postal museum). This is also not a call against taxidermy in general; only a call for animals who have served the nation to be spared this fate.
I hope this request receives you well and that you are willing to honor these provisions.
__________________________ (your name here).
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