You might know Dave Keeton from his many years of service teaching school at Athens High School where he also served as Athletic Director.  Keeton, a Vietnam War veteran, served with some pretty distinguished soldiers of the four-legged variety, and that’s the subject of his talk this Friday for the 63rd Annual Armed Forces Appreciation Luncheon at Firekeeper’s Casino Hotel, sponsored by Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce.

Keeton was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins.  He says he was going to be an MP in the service, but instead he ended up training at Lacklund Air Force Base to be a sentry dog handler.

Dave Keeton-TSM Photo

“They selected the dog by the size of the guy.   If you were a big guy, you got a big dog, and I got one of meanest and the biggest dogs I’ve ever seen and he had teeth about a mile long, it seemed like.”

Keeton spent a tour with the German Shepard, King, in Vietnam, and the dog spent 5 tours. “His service tag number was M000, so everybody called him KingMoo, but that wasn’t his name.”

Throughout the course of the war, about 5,000 dogs served in Vietnam and Thailand.  The enemy put a bounty on them.  “It was something else,” said Keeton.  “When I got to Vietnam, I was told that there was a $2,000 bounty---$1,500 on the dog and $500 on the handler.”   Very few dogs made it back from Vietnam.   The concern was that they picked up parasites in Southeast Asia, which could have been spread in the US.  Keeton says his dog was one of the very few that passed his physical and returned to the US after his five tours of duty.   Keeton says he still has a reunion every two years with other dog handlers from the war, and they always talk about the dogs they left behind.

In 1992, President Bill Clinton signed legislation that now ensures all military dogs are treated like true veterans.  Now, dogs actually hold a higher rank than their handlers.

Keeton says the German Army was the first to really rely on dogs, in 1884.   They were also very prevalent in the US Army in World War 1.  “In WW1, a dog named “Stubby” was promoted to Sergeant on the battlefield.”

Keeton recounted the story of Cairo the dog, a Belgian Malinois.    81 Navy Seals descended on Osama Bin Laden's compound on May the 2nd 2011, known as SEAL Team Six. Only one name, Cairo, was released.   “When President Obama went to Fort Campbell to meet the team, Cairo parachuted in with goggles.  He’s the one that cornered Osama Bin Laden.”

Fast forward to last week, when another major terrorist was eliminated and “Conan”, another Belgian Malinois was there.   Conan chased down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and was wounded after the ISIS boss blew himself up with a suicide vest.  Conan received high praise from President Trump and is expected to visit the White House soon, and get back to active service.  He won’t get a Purple Heart though.  “Military working dogs are not eligible for the Purple Heart,” confirmed Department of Defense spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell.

Dave Keeton will talk more about dogs in the military this Friday, at FireKeeper’s Casino Hotel for the 63rd Annual Armed Forces Appreciation Luncheon.

  • What: The 63rd Annual Armed Forces Appreciation Luncheon.
  • Who: Guest Speaker David Keeton and the History of the War Dog
  • When: Fri, November 8, 2019 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM EST
  • Where: FireKeepers Casino Hotel, 11177 E Michigan Ave
  •  Why:  So that the bravery, loyalty and service of all past and present military working dogs will never be forgotten.
  • Live Music: Featuring “The Cereal City Concert Band”
  • Tickets are $10 per Person: Tables and sponsorship available.

Click here for tickets and information.