Columbia, SC (WLTX) The capital city is on target to get a new war memorial. This one will be dedicated to the dogs who serve in the military. And it's been made possible by the determination and love on one veteran for his dogs.
Drafted in 1969, Johnny Mayo was a scout dog handler in the Vietnam War. His role was taking the point in front of the brigade with one of his two dogs during his deployment, Tiger or Kelly. They were his constant companions and many times the saviors of his squad; alerting to a nearby enemy or a trip wire. tiger lost his life when he saved the soldiers behind him when he found a trip wire.
Mayo says, "Of the over 4,000 dogs that served in Vietnam; only 204 dogs survived and were dispatched back to the United States." But he says, they saved many soldier lives and they should be recognized for their bravery and service. He says, "Where we were doing operations, beginning to the end of the war, there was always the enemy out there in the jungle, so he was trained to detect scent and the trip wires."
For years, Mayo has educated people on the role of the war dog. But raising funds and building the war dog memorial has been the focus of his life since 2011 when he was approached by the Veterans Memorial Park architect to take the point on the project. So like he had done with his dogs so many times during the war, Mayo took the lead raising awareness and the money to honor the brave dogs he worked with. He says, "They are trained to do what they do, and they are just so heroic just because of the way they served in past even before Vietnam, and to today."
The bronze statue is a bit larger than life size and weighs 2,000 pounds. It was designed by renowned Illinois bronze artist, Renee Bemis.
The replica shows the dog handler and the German Shepherd on point; just as Mayo and Kelly were in Vietnam. It will sit on the bank just below where the current Vietnam memorial stands. Mayo says, "The total cost is about $130,000. we've raised a little over $95,000. So we've got 30-35,000 to go."
Mayo says this will be the largest war dog memorial in the entire United States. He says, "With the scale of the statue the statue helmet to the granite with the dog handler on his knee he's 8 feet tall, it's going to be a world class monument."
The Monument is set to travel to North Carolina in October stopping at military bases along the way to South Carolina where it will be placed in its permanent home. The dedication is set to be on Veterans day this coming November. Founders hope to break ground and begin building the plaza where the statue will sit in September.