By CAROLINE MURRAY
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- When David Anderson's dream to build a war dog memorial was repeatedly shut down by local officials, the Vietnam War era veteran nearly gave up on the idea.
Anderson, a Broadalbin resident and loyal dog owner, had long dreamed of creating a war dog monument to honor the fallen four-legged heroes he believes are overlooked in history.
Making his dream a reality was not an easy task, but it became a reality when a local veterans committee approached Anderson about the possibility of erecting a monument at the town of Florida Veterans Park.
Today, at the center of the park, situated between Veterans Monument and below the American Flag, two dog statues and an honorary monument stand proudly among other war memorials, as a homage to "our forgotten heroes."
"It is a beautiful setting; I think it is one of the most beautiful settings there is," Anderson said, as he scanned the rural scenery surrounding the park.
Anderson said he is a Vietnam War era veteran, because he never traveled or fought a battle oversees. He served from 1962 until 1965, when he was stationed in the United States.
He admitted to not having much knowledge about war dogs while serving in the military.
"I was ignorant of the fact, like people are today," he said.
Anderson hopes the memorial will help spread awareness about the service these heroic dogs provide.
Anderson said war dogs can be traced back to the Corinthian War, an ancient Greece conflict, and the ancient Mesopotamia days.
He said they have fought in U.S. conflicts such as both World Wars and Vietnam, and most recently, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Primarily, the dogs are used to detect improvised explosive devices, mines, ammunition, and even people.
However, more importantly, the dogs provide a service to their handlers, using their sense of smell and hearing to detect when trouble is ahead.
"It is amazing what the dogs are trained to do," he said.
Anderson's idea for a war dog memorial began seven years ago, when he purchased two dog statues at an auction. At the time, Anderson said he was a part of Broadalbin's American Legion Post No. 137 and planned for the memorial to materialize somewhere in town.
Plans never came to fruition, however, and Anderson said he moved on to the city of Gloversville for help.
There, he approached the Common Council with the idea to build the memorial in the veterans memorial park at the north end of Kingsboro Avenue.
At first, Anderson said the council approved the idea.
But, due to what he chalked-up to "a lack of communication" with the council, Anderson never heard back from them about the project.
Allegedly, some of the council members did not approve of the memorial, and his dream was again, deterred.
"I had almost given up because I thought God doesn't want me to do this," he said. "I had put the statues up for sale on eBay and no one purchased them. I guess God had a better plan."
Anderson said last year the veterans committee in Florida got word of his war dog idea, and invited him to a meeting.
By the time the meeting concluded, he said the group of seven already voted to construct the war dog memorial at the park.
A week before Memorial Day, the memorial was finalized when the two bronze dog statues were put into place.
He stood at the memorial Friday with his 13-year-old golden retriever, his best friend Dakota, as they roamed the grounds of the park.
Dakota goes everywhere with Anderson. He said the dog inspired him to build the war dog memorial.
At the bottom of the memorial it reads "Donated by Dave Anderson and Dakota."
Anderson said Dakota was once a therapy dog, and he would bring him into Amsterdam's Liberty ARC to provide services to the mentally disabled.
He observed Dakota making a difference in the residents' lives, and how much his golden retriever meant to the people of the program.
"That made me start to think about the importance of what dogs do in our wars," Anderson said.
He said he talked to war dog handlers, and realized losing their animals were similar to losing one of their own brothers.
"That is how it evolved," he added.
According to the Vietnam Dog Handler Association, there are several war dog memorials across the United States.
In New York, there are four listed in areas such as Long Island, Staten Island, and one in the town of Fishkill, Dutchess County.
Anderson said based on his research, he believes the war dog memorial at the town of Florida Veterans Park is the only one in the area.
He credits the committee, consisting of Bill Weller, Dan Wilson, Rudy Horlbeck, Joe Inglese, Bill Staley, Gary Engle and Jim Yermas for their time and dedication for making his dream possible.
"I want so much for these guys to be recognized," Anderson said. "They are you-and-me people, they didn't have money falling out of their pockets."
Although pleased with the war dog memorial, Anderson said he and the committee plan to add more monuments to the park.
Eventually, committee members want the circular area to encompass a monument for each war fought on and off American soil, starting with the French and Indian War and ending with what ever conflict is to come, Anderson said.
Anderson even proposed adding a pet cemetery to the park at their latest committee meeting, for anyone interested in burying their beloved friend.
For now, however, Anderson stands by his war dog memorial, and, hopes the "forgotten heroes," have a chance to be remembered among other fallen soldiers.
"I wanted to establish something as a learning tool -- they are not just a four-legged animal at the end of a leash," he said.