Sunday, July 8, 2012

Make Way For the Sarge

With every war there comes great heroes. But there is a problem with war heroes, some live on forever in the memory of a nation while some just seem to fade away in the shadow of future heroes. The hero in the case of this article comes from the Great War, which is why most people may have never heard of him. He is a true American hero and had left us with quite a legacy, one which is still being fulfilled today. He is Sergeant Stubby of the 26th Division, 102nd Infantry and oh yea, he's a dog.

You read that right, Sergeant Stubby is a dog, it wasn't just an odd nickname. Much of Sergeant Stubby's early life is a mystery. What is known is that Sgt Stubby is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, so we can see already why the Sarge is going to be a hero. The Staffy breed is a descendant of a dog fighting breed, with a fearless character and muscular build to match. Stubby was a stray dog living on the mean streets and back alleys of New Haven, Connecticut. He seemed destined never to leave a scrappy survival of the fittest life until he stumbled across the lush well manicured grounds of Yale University. On that fateful day Stubby was found by the 102nd, which would ultimately turn out well for both Stubby and the brave men of the 102nd. Stubby was cared for by one solider in particular, John Robert Conroy. Stubby was treated like one of the guys and taken to drills everyday. He was taken so often Stubby even fell in line and participated in the drills. However, World War I was raging in Europe and the U.S. was called in to save the day, so when the 102nd shipped out Conroy took Stubby along with him to France.

Upon arrival in France Stubby was a great morale booster. Men longing for the comforts of normalcy and signs of home took one look at Stubby, and for just a moment life was good. But Stubby was bound for greatness, he was active in 17 battles and even participated in 4 offensive charges. He fought at Chemin des Dames (February 1918) and at Schieprey (April 1918). Both in which he was injured but it was at Schieprey that forced Stubby off the front line. But remember this is Sergeant Stubby and nothing can keep him down, after his recovery he returned to the trenches. But again Stubby found himself in the line a fire. In the midst of battle Stubby and the 102nd came under a chemical attack and Stubby was forced off the front line again. However, this was a valuable lesson for him and it would be this lesson that would make him a hero.

Stubby again returned to the front once healed and this time even more war ready. After being gassed, he was now able to recognize the sound of incoming artillery fire and scent of mustard gas before it could do any damage. He warned his fellow soldiers every time the Germans fired well before they could every hear it. This was key on the battlefield as it wasn't known if it was regular artillery fire or a dreaded mustard gas attack, either way it was bad but with early warning was of the utmost importance. Stubby also located wounded and lost soldiers in no-man's-land. He even one time captured a German spy single handedly...single pawededly. He was an active part in the re-taking of Chateau Thierry and was treated as a hero by the locals. While in Paris on some well deserved R&R, Stubby saved a little girl from being hit by a car. But the truth is there is no way we can ever count how many men's lives that Sergent Stubby actually saved while in the trenches, but it was many. As the war ended, Stubby boarded a ship back to America where he received a heroes welcome.

Stubby returned home a decorated war hero. He received a Purple Heart, The Republic of France Grande War Medal, the Medal of Verdun, St. Mihiel Campaign Medal, Chateau Thierry Campaign Medal and 3 Service Stripes. Now Stubby was not one for retirement, he became a national icon after war. He was inducted into the American Legion and went on a war bond tour. Oh yea while on that tour, he stayed in five-star hotels that had "no dogs allowed" policies. He visited the White House a few times and met 3 Presidents, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding. In 1921, Sgt Stubby received the Dog Hero Gold Medal from General John "Black Jack" Perishing. Yet there was one constant in Stubby's life and that was his buddy Robert Conroy. Conroy would go to Georgetown University Law School and Stubby went too. Because of his fame the school adopted Stubby as their official mascot. Stubby would be present at every Georgetown home football game and get the crowd riled up at halftime by running around the field and pushing a football around. So not only was he a war hero, he was also an entertainer and the first official mascot of Georgetown University.

Life would be pretty sweet for the stray pup from New Haven. He had done everything a dog could be asked to do. Stubby would live out his life with Conroy before he passed away in 1926 at about 10 years of age, 53 in human years though. But the Sarge did a lot in those 10 years and it is worth remembering him for his service to our country. Today, you can actually go see Stubby, as he is on display at the Smithsonian's exhibit The Price of Freedom: Americans at War (and yes, I know that sounds creepy but it is pretty cool as well). But what does the life of Sgt Stubby teach us? That dogs are really mans best friend? I think what we can take away from Stubby is that we must not forget our heroes, their work or their legacies. Today, because of Stubby the U.S. has used dogs in every war since WWI. War Dogs as they are known provide a much need role in our armed services. They are an asset in the field yes, but more importantly they are that friend in tough times. Stubby and every war dog after him have numerous stories of how they comfort and boost moral, sometimes those stories out weigh their actually military service. But isn't that just what soldiers need? A sense of normalcy when witnessing the most horrific of times. It is important to remember our four legged friends that serve bravely next to the men and women of our United States fighting forces. 

1 comment:

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