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Celebrating all who served — the four-legged, too

Charleston Animal Society has had a long and close relationship with the military. We enjoy some type of interaction with the military members and their families on a daily basis. From volunteering, to adopting, to receiving veterinary assistance to help with their service animals, the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom are a special part of the Charleston Animal Society family.

Veterans Day is Monday, November 11 and honors all those who have served our country in war or peace. To thank veterans for their sacrifices, Charleston Animal Society will honor veterans at Paws in the Park on Saturday, November 16 at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. All veterans will be able to sign-up for the walk or run at no charge by entering “VETERAN” at through midnight on Veterans Day. Veterans and other participants may walk or run in the event and bring their dog or other appropriate pet to participate. Food, drink and entertainment are available at the Paws in the Park festival beginning at 9:00 a.m. and are priced separately.

Veterans also include animals that have made sacrifices for our country.

In the past two weeks, President Donald Trump disclosed that Conan, a Belgian Malinois dog, accompanied the team of United States commandos that went into Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound in northern Syria, killing the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS). Conan was wounded when al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest after being chased into a dead-end tunnel, killing himself and two of his children.

When one thinks about military animals, which we also honor, dogs almost always come to mind. However, there is a long and varied history of multiple species of animals serving our nation through military service. Perhaps the horse was the most widely used animal in the history of militaries worldwide. Although elephants, camels and oxen were widely used across several continents, mostly for transportation and combat, except oxen, they were not a staple of the U.S. Armed Forces.

From leg-cuffing sea lions to bomb-sniffing bees to dolphin spies to insect cyborgs, the American armed forces have utilized the service of animals in a variety of roles. Perhaps, countless service men and women’s lives were saved, along with thousands of civilians, both directly and indirectly due to the service of these wonderful creatures.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the First World War. While Memorial Day (last Monday in May) honors those who gave their lives for our country, Veterans Day honors those, both living and dead, for their sacrifices. Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May) pays special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces.

The First World War officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ended about seven months before that, when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, was largely considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day. In 1926, Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war and in 1938, it became an official holiday, primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of the First World War.

But then the Second World War and the Korean War happened, so on June 1, 1954, at the urging of veteran service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.

For a while, Veterans Day’s date was changed, too, and it confused everybody. Congress signed the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 to ensure that a few federal holidays — Veterans Day included — would be celebrated on a Monday. Officials hoped it would spur travel and other family activities over a long weekend, which would stimulate the economy.

For some inexplicable reason, the bill set Veterans Day commemorations for the fourth Monday of every October. On Oct. 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under this new bill was held. We’re not sure why it took three years to implement, but not surprisingly, there was a lot of confusion about the change and many states were unhappy, choosing to continue to recognize the day as they previously had — in November.

Within a few years, it became pretty apparent that most U.S. citizens wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, since it was a matter of historic and patriotic significance. So on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law (Public Law 94-97), which returned the annual observance to its original date starting in 1978.

Please join us on Saturday, November 16 to raise critical dollars for Toby’s Fund, which provides for the medical care of thousands of injured, ill, abused and unwanted animals in need. You may sign-up to run, walk or donate at

Joe Elmore is CEO and president of the Charleston Animal Society.

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