animal heroes, gratitude, heroes, pride, rodents, soldiers, the wounded, war dogs, war suffering, WWI, WWII
There is a delightful animated movie released this month about a war dog of World War I. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is a true story of a stray dog who became the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Division.
It isn’t clear whether the soldier, Corporal Robert Conroy, adopted Stubby or Stubby adopted Conroy. (That’s the way with most animals and their people, isn’t it?) But it was Conroy’s training Stubby to stand and salute Conroy’s commanding officer that marked the beginning of Stubby’s military career. This little terrier mix, served in the trenches of France for 18 months. He is credited with saving the lives of our soldiers by alerting them to surprise mustard attacks, finding our wounded, and capturing all by himself a German soldier. Stubby participated in 17 battles, receiving both medals and rank.
Much is written about the heavy infiltration of rats in WWI and it is with rats that Stubby first proves his worth. The movie shows Stubby chasing rats out of the trenches where our soldiers were positioned. These rodents did more than boldly go for soldiers’ food, they bit, even chewed, on the wounded and dead. When I saw Stubby going after the rats, my mind wandered to my soldier dad and his own experience.
Mother said Daddy came home with odd scars around his waist. It took many months of questioning before he told her they were from rat bites sustained while in foxholes. You couldn’t shoot them. That would reveal yourself to the enemy. Some soldiers bayoneted them. I don’t know how Daddy tried to deal with them while in his foxhole because he would never talk about the war at all. He was a shrapnel-wounded soldier of WWII with pieces of metal in five different parts of his body. He had Trench feet, more commonly known as Jungle Rot, an advanced infection that often required amputation of the feet. Daddy kept his feet and toes, but they bothered him all of his life. The memories of wartime gave him nightmares and he walked in his sleep. I was a teenager when he waked us once while trying to climb a wall. He thought he was crawling out of a foxhole. Maybe those bad dreams had rats in them.
I was two years old when he came home from the war so you can see that the after effects lingered on—though he never talked about the war other than to say he was proud to have served his country. If questioned, Daddy would simply shake his head and look off into the distance. That silence and response was typical of WWII veterans.
Edward Tick said in his book War and the Soul the hell our soldiers have been through doesn’t end when they return home. They replay their experiences abroad again and again. General Douglas MacArthur said “The soldier above all prays for peace. For it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds of war.”
Sgt. Stubby suffered his own battle wounds. Twice he was injured with grenades. He was given the care due him as a soldier and after recovering went back to the trenches to continue serving. When he came home, Sgt. Stubby was a celebrity, marching in parades, and leading most of them. He met three presidents and was awarded a gold medal by General John J. Pershing. Stubby entered the service in 1918 and died in his sleep in 1926.
In the book of Genesis, we see that God made animals first, and then man. God gave dominion over the animals. I love the Message Bible translation of Genesis 1:26-28 where it says man is to be responsible for every animal that move on the earth. Yet there are times animals have taken care of us and Sgt. Stubby was a prime example.
I hope you will take time to see the movie and appreciate the dedicated service of war dog, Sgt. Stubby. It might bring some tears, but they will be glad tears, not sad tears. I believe the movie will leave you grateful for a little dog that went off to war, served bravely, and came back a hero.