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Military Dog Statue Is Unveiled At Veterans Park

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2019 4:19 pm

It’s not everyday that a dog gets his own statue. But when you are a dog like Chopper, you do. Chopper, a German Shepard, saved the life of his handler Trevor Maroshek and other Navy SEALs during combat and later became a companion to Maroshek. Chopper has been an inspiration and the poster child for the SEAL Dog Foundation, a not-for profit, created by Maroshek, which provides service dogs to veterans.

A statue in honor of Chopper had been in the works for a while and it was finally unveiled on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Veterans Park by Councilman Robert Patton. Mayor Serge Dedina spoke of how dogs have played a role in the military for centuries as carriers, gate guards and scouts. Naval Bases Coronado Commanding Officer Capt. Tim Slenz also spoke of the timing being very appropriate with Veterans Day just a few days away. Navy SEAL Andrew Tafelski and Jerry Sanders, former mayor of San Diego and former San Diego chief of police who is now special advisor board of the Navy SEAL Museum, were also in attendance and made some remarks. Maroshek’s friend and community member Jerry Quinn was also on the podium. Scout Troop Pack 866 led the Pledge of Allegiance and Mar Vista High School JROTC presented the colors.

Tafelski explained that the Navy SEAL Museum was approached for financial backing by the foundation “We didn’t hesitate and give them what they needed,” he said.

Canine veterans have taken the spotlight recently when a military dog played a role in killing an ISIS leader last month. Chopper had a big role in at least two incidents according to Maroshek, one time sniffing explosives and another during an ambush.

Maroshek, an Imperial Beach resident, said it has been a long road to get to this point. Maroshek is one of four people who started the non-profit. “We are so blessed to have such a privilege and be part of a phenomenal community,” he said of his adopted hometown.

He explained that Chopper had come into his life in 2007 and he didn’t know at the time that he wanted to be part of the canine program. He was sent for training all over the world for the program and his feelings changed.

“I developed a phenomenal bond with my dog. He saved my life and a bunch of my friends…he started saving my life on and off the battlefield with things I had to deal with myself and in the months over the transition [to civilian life]. As I was coming out, he transitioned to be my service dog,” he said.

Maroshek talked about the difficulty veterans face to get a service dog, a process that can take up to two years. But thanks to the foundation he helped create, dogs can go to veterans almost immediately. Maroshek brought Chopper’s son with him to the ceremony, a German Shepard named Thor who is 6 years old. Chopper died last year at 13 years old.

Maroshek, who joined the Navy after 9/11, was a Navy SEAL from 2002 to 2012 and after being deployed four times he was able to adopt Chopper. “There are no written instructions on returning dogs. I was able to adopt him and transition him to be my service dog,” he explained.

The Seal Dog Foundation has been spreading the word of its work through word of mouth but like any non profit, it needs funding. “As we get more money we can get more dogs out there,” he said.

The black bronze statue in the likeness of Chopper was unveiled by Councilman Robert Patton and is flanked by a plaque which reads “City of Imperial Beach honors all military working dogs past, present and future for their undying loyalty, devotion and faithful service.”

Before the unveiling, Councilman Mark West read a poem about military dogs entitled “The Soldier Dog” which follows:

“I was trained to use my eyes, to watch and protect you from harm. My ears to alert you of impeding danger like an alarm. My keen sense of smell to detect an enemy close at bay. Yes I was a solider who gave my life so you could fight another day. So remember me as time goes by this solider dog so true. For I have one life to give and I gave that life to you.”

Dogs have been working alongside the military since time immemorial and their history in the United States dates back to the Seminole Wars and the Civil War. Dogs also served as mascots during World War I in recruiting and propaganda posters.

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