“It was to say our final goodbyes. It was very important to honor Breston,” said Staff Sgt. David Yaronczyk about a memorial service for his colleague, who served in the U.S. military for more than eight years.
Breston worked in Afghanistan as part of a drug detection effort for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and then for several years in security at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill.
Breston was a military working dog, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois.
“They’re not just dogs, they’re partners and best friends,” said Yaronczyk, who organized the memorial service that was attended by about 50 airmen and civilians. “They actually affect the mission.”
Breston was set to retire this month but in June he was put down after contracting a blood infection and being diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma.
During the memorial held last week, Scott Air Force Base’s current working dogs attended the ceremony along with their handlers. At Warrior Park, “Taps” filled the air and Breston’s previous handlers said a few words to honor him.
The U.S. armed forces have used working dogs officially since World War I.
Earlier this year, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced language that’s part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to retire working dogs on U.S. soil. The dog’s previous handlers would have the first rights for adoption.
Although the U.S. Air Force has previously returned dogs from overseas, when they are retired abroad and become civilians, the task of returning them becomes much more difficult due to their lack of military status.
“I have the best job in the military,” said Staff Sgt. Yaronczyk of getting to work with dogs such as Breston.
“They comfort you when you’re deployed and even on the road, and you wind up having conversations with these dogs. (The dogs) ask nothing more than to be loved and shown nothing more than some affection,” he said.
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