NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ)-Dozens of people came out to honor a local military hero at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville this afternoon. But this type of hero’s salute was a first for the cemetery, that’s because this hero was one of a kind.
On the Eve of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a community shows their respect to one of its four-legged veterans.
Elizabeth Banks of McCaw Veterinary clinic in Nicholasville told the crowd gathered at the cemetery’s pavilion, “It is because of dogs like Ireland that our brothers, sisters, children, husbands and wives are able to safely return home to their loved ones.”
Ireland served two tours overseas in operation Iraqi Freedom sniffing out explosives. One of those tours was alongside her handler Marine Sergeant Joshua Sutherland of Lexington.
Sergeant Sutherland says, “It was an inspiration to work with her because of her drive. And we knew…I was asked the question…how did I feel about my safety? My safety was never a concern. I felt extremely confident in her abilities and if something was there we were going to find it.”
After her time in Iraq, Ireland retired and Sutherland adopted her. She lived out the rest of her life as a family dog who loved playing with Kong toys.
“She’s lived with us for seven years from Hawaii to North Carolina, to South Carolina, back to central Kentucky. And those are my best memories. And you know it was the greatest time of our life and the toughest loss I’ve ever endured.”
In her old age she touched not only the lives of the Sutherlands but of the staff at McCaw Veterinary Clinic in Nicholasville who cared for her. She was even boarding her for free when the Sutherlands went out of town.
Dr. Banks says, “When we got the chance to know her I felt like it was our duty to take care of her and at no cost because she had brought her handler back home to his family, and others brothers, sisters, and children and it was the least that we could do.”
The clinic rallied to make sure Ireland would always be remembered as a hero, organizing this special military ceremony in her honor
Sergeant Sutherland says, “It’s actually the first ceremony done for a military working dog at Camp Nelson. And it’s more than we could ever imagine.”
Sergeant Sutherland and his family are moving on to Northern Kentucky where he says he will be placed with another working dog soon. But he says the family will never be able to replace Ireland.