During her lifetime, 13-year-old Iireland served two tours in Iraq, helping to identify roadside bombs and other explosives using only her nose. Born into the military working dog program at Lackland Air Force Base in 2003, the Belgian Malinois was first deployed to Iraq in 2007, and then again in 2008/9. Following a successful stint in the breeding program, Iireland was more than ready to prove her worth in Fallujah, saving countless lives with her sensitive snout.
After hearing about her heroics, it will come as little surprise that Iireland, who sadly passed away recently, was remembered with full military honors at a recent memorial service. Held at Camp Nelson National Cemetery, the memorial service featured a lone trumpeter playing "Taps", the presentation of the U.S. flag to her family, a horse-drawn caisson, and a 21-gun salute, as well as a wealth of mourners keen to remember Iireland's devotion to her country.
Sergeant Joshua Sutherland, who worked alongside the pup and adopted her following her final tour of duty, regarded Iireland's loss as the toughest he's ever had to endure. He remembers her with fondness: "Iireland on the job was just a ton of drive. She would work until she'd die. There was no quit in that dog. If something was there we were going to find it."
Iireland was not only Sergeant Sutherland's colleague but also his friend. "We had a lot of great times," continued Sutherland. During the seven years that Iireland and Sutherland were together, the pup followed him across the country as he and his wife moved, and went on to start their family.
Despite Iireland's dedication to the military, and that of countless other service dogs operating within the forces, there is currently no burial ground within the cemetery that could accept such dogs. However, Colonel Tracy Lucas of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard hopes that this will change one day. "All of our war dogs deserve the same honor," he told the Lexington Herald Leader.
We agree, and would like to encourage our readers to take a moment to remember Iireland, and the countless dogs that have served, and continue to serve, our country.
Rest in peace Iireland; your dedication will forever be appreciated.
Photo ©By U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall - Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2285591