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Local Hero – Supporting the Troops’ Best Friends

Move America Forward sending care packages to military working dogs

LA Hero - December 2011

A U.S. Army soldier and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a Chinook helicopter during water training over the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez, U.S. Air Force.

Although it was a hoax, a chain email describing the heroic efforts of a military working dog and his nomination for a Congressional Medal of Honor inspired Danny Gonzalez and others at Move America Forward to help support these brave animals.

“Their ability to find IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and protect our soldiers is something that should not be overlooked,” says Gonzalez. “Americans have a special place in our hearts for dogs. People are really moved, not just by the dog, but by the relationship between the dog and the handler.”

Move America Forward began its mission to send care packages to the military working dog teams in early October and was confident that the more than one million members of their email list would respond to the call for help.

“We’re hoping to raise at least $25,000,” says Gonzalez. “Getting the word out is the best way to do that.”

The care package includes supplies for the soldiers as well as rawhide bones, chew toys, and protective gear for the dog. According to Gonzalez, they are working on striking up a partnership with the company that makes Doggles to provide protective eye gear for the dogs, as well.

“There is a lot of stuff getting blown around out there, and when a sandstorm picks up, we want to know that we can help these dogs that help our soldiers.”

Move America Forward has been in operation since 2004 and has helped to send more than 200 tons of care packages to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. After so much praise was being heaped upon the military working dogs, Gonzalez began to research their effect on, not only the war effort, but the mental strength of the soldiers as well.

Because the program is still in its early stages, there has not been any direct feedback from soldiers about how the canine care packages have helped. However, he has received numerous letters in the past thanking him and his team for supporting their effort, and he imagines this will be no different.

“We’re not just about military dogs,” explains Gonzalez. “We’ve been around since 2004 and our mission has always been to support our troops.”

Gonzalez speaks of the loyalty and dedication of these animals, and believes these unique virtues need to be recognized and rewarded. “I remember hearing a story about a handler who had been killed in the line of action and the dog refused to leave the body—he just would not leave the soldier’s side. That’s something we want to support.”

If this program is to be a success, Gonzalez knows that he is going to need more help than he has had in the past. “That’s why we reached out to all of these animal organizations. We asked them if they could put us in contact with the right people and help us reach those people that care about dogs.”

You can support this cause by donating money or sponsoring a care package, which allows the option to write a personal message to a specific working military dog team. Gonzalez also stresses the importance of spreading the word to help these dogs.

“Right now, there are upwards of 2,700 dogs in the programs at Lackland Air Force Base and that is how many need our help,” says Gonzalez. “We really appreciate the people who take our emails and send them out to friends and family. This is going to help save lives.”

To learn more, please visit MoveAmericaForward.org.

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