- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
On May 21, members of the 8th Security Forces Squadron gathered to mourn and celebrate the life of Iian.
The military working dog, whose life began and ended in the service of the military, died recently of cancer. The 11-year-old Belgian Malanois was born into the MWD’s puppy program in 2003 (hence the double “i” at the beginning of his name — a distinguishing mark of his litter). His career as a patrol and explosives detection dog began the following year when he was stationed at Kunsan Air Base in Korea. The memorial service for Iian was held at the base chapel, where Iian was remembered fondly by those who worked with him as a “hard-hitting” dog with “a keen nose” whose “love for a Kong was unrivaled.”
Over the course of this long life as an MWD, Iian had 13 partners. Iian’s last handler, Staff Sgt. Daniel Sayarot, spoke, saying that “Iian was the best MWD he had ever had the honor to work with.” Staff Sgt. Aaron Reason, another of his former handlers, also got up to say a few words about his former dog.
“‘There are no words to explain how much this dog meant to me, our kennels, our country and our mission,’ Reason said. ‘Iian loved what he did so much that he would work until his final day, and that was absolutely true. Not a day went by that he wasn’t motivated to go to work. Partners like Iian are why we handlers even pick up a leash in the first place.'”
Iian’s memorial service was treated with all the dignity and respect that would have been afforded to any other serviceman. And it feels wholly unnecessary to describe how much these dogs impact the lives of not only their handlers but the other men and women with whom they serve — and that their deaths come as a real blow. These photos do the job well enough.
Above, members of the 8th Security Forces Squadron mourn during the memorial of military working dog Iian at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Sayarot, 8th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, renders a salute during the memorial of his dog Iian at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, on May 21.
Sayarot stands in front of Iian’s crate to pay his final respects during the memorial service.
Rebecca Frankel is senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy. Her forthcoming book War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love comes out on Oct. 14 from Palgrave Macmillan.