Friday, July 20, 2007

Kory Wiens laid to rest

Military tributes paid to Cpl. Kory Wiens during Wednesday's memorial service at Faith Evangelical Free Church frequently touched on a recurring theme: his sense of humor. Wiens made people smile; he made them laugh.

During two poignant pictorial remembrances near the service's end -- one for Wiens and the other for his "son," Sgt. Cooper -- one could not help but to get the impression that Sgt. Cooper, a spry yellow lab, brought out smiles in people, as well.

So it was fitting that Wiens and Sgt. Cooper were remembered together at Faith Evangelical, and again amid the peaceful, pastoral Salt Creek Cemetery huddled before an evergreen, forested, rolling-hill horizon.

Wiens and Cooper died July 6 on active duty in Iraq. They were doing what they did together as part of the 94th Mine Dog Detachment, 5th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade -- searching for explosives.

The service was attended by scores of well-wishers -- on two legs and four.

"Cooper was very young when he came into Kory's care," Pastor Ron Sutter mused. "Cooper didn't even know one command -- which is not uncommon with children. The two lived together, they worked together; as is often the case in a war zone, they had to sleep together at times; they shared the same days off."

Of the many in attendance, Sutter said some must have played sports with Wiens at Talmadge Middle School or West Albany High. Or perhaps they were in the Scouts with him. He touched on the qualities coaches and troop leaders look for: courage, dedication, initiative.

"Kory passed those qualities on to his best friend -- his son," Sutter said, adding that both manifested those qualities to the end. "Laying your life down for another, there is no greater gift."

Doing so in tandem, dog and handler, is rare.

"I've been in the service for 15 years and a K-9 handler since 1994, and this is the first time I remember a handler and dog deceased together," said U.S. Navy Master at Arms Chief Thomas Hodges.

A nearby soldier and dog handler informed Hodges that this was the first time since Vietnam.

Earlier in the service, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Marine veteran who served in Southeast Asia, recalled a humorous memo he'd read from Dog to God where the former inquired to the latter if he'd be able to jump up on the couch in heaven.

Kulongoski wasn't sure about the couch but was pretty certain Cooper was in heaven and probably on Wiens' lap.

Sgt. David Gertz and his springer spaniel Bruno stood at attention with several other Army handlers and their canines during Wednesday's graveside memorial service.

Besides the d├ęcor of their handlers, the military canines also were distinguishable by their demeanor:

After the 21-gun salute they were still at attention as a cacophonous barking chorus erupted from the two dozen police K-9 units in response to the salvo.

Gertz knew Wiens. Bruno knew Cooper.

"The bond a dog has with his handler is key," Gertz said, while Bruno sat at ease by his side on the cemetery's hill. "They say that a dog is man's best friend, and it's 100 percent true."

Gertz said the explosives program is fairly new to the U.S. military, patterned after a similar one the British deploy. The program likes to recruit sporting dogs -- similar to Cooper and Bruno --because of their in-bred fortitude.

"They are wonderful dogs with a wonderful sense of smell," Gertz said.

The canines, Gertz assured, have saved a number of lives because they are willing to seek out suspicious odors where troops alone may not dare to investigate.

"It's extremely impressive what you see here," Gertz said of the line of K-9s in attendance. "And it was great to see all the people lined up (on Ellendale Avenue, Dallas, during the procession) on the way here."

Wiens was awarded a number of medals posthumously: The Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.

From the Statesman Journal

Related Link:
Kory Wiens comes home

Related Link:
Kory D. Wiens dies 'of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device'