President Trump retweeted a meme this week showing a Photoshop of him putting a medal on Conan, the military dog involved in the raid that took down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It’s a pretty cute meme, with Conan’s tongue lolling out and all that.
I’m a dog person, so I’ll self identify as a sucker for that kind of thing, but there’s something beyond the novelty of that joke that is worth exploring.
Conan has sort of stolen the spotlight as the hero of that raid, but there were a lot of people involved in that attack on al-Baghdadi’s compound.
From U.S. Special Forces that kicked down the doors, to the pilots flying the helicopters (and the soldiers inside them) through enemy fire, to the people who fueled those choppers up.
Today our country is especially reverent of the soldiers who have been touched by war – rightly so for the toll that takes – but those fighters don’t get the bullets in their rifles without someone else in uniform filling out an invoice form in triplicate.
I’ve spoken to more than a few veterans about their service, from men who slogged through the muck and gunfire in Vietnam, to soldiers who served in administrative roles, and the difference between the challenges they faced doesn’t change the respect we have for them.
People have been labeling Conan as a “hero” and “brave” – adjectives I’m happy to accept about the pooch, but anyone who’s ever trained a dog knows that’s not exact description of canine behavior.
Dedicated, faithful, loyal, diligent – these are probably more accurate, literal descriptions of Conan.
So why does that dog feel like a hero to so many?
Without reservation, we thank our veterans for their service. We don’t grill them on how many bullets they’ve fired at bad guys before doing so.
The original image (before Conan was added into it) from the President’s meme was of Trump giving retired Army medic James McCloughan the Medal of Honor. When McCloughan was asked about the photo by The New York Times, he said people who accept the Medal of Honor do so on behalf of their teams, and that the attention on Conan recognizes that he’s a part of a brave team of people.
We thank all our veterans with the same level of respect because one soldier represents the whole.
The branches of the military work as a single unit, everything playing in harmony like a big band to accomplish goals in concert.
A commander on the front lines is only as successful as his supply officer, and a Special Ops team is only successful because all its pieces – both two and four-legged – work together as one.