By Leah Craig
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough joined Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) in touring VA facilities and conducting private forums with local veterans Thursday across the 8th District.
The day concluded with a visit to the Michigan War Dogs Memorial. Described as a hidden gem in the community, the cemetery was something Slotkin personally wanted to highlight on her tour.
“Regardless of political affiliation, every Michigander I know loves dogs, and every Michigander I know loves veterans,” she stated. “It’s something everyone should see.”
The Michigan War Dogs Memorial is one of two cemeteries in the nation dedicated to military dogs. The volunteer-based organization is a storied one: hundreds of dogs, all of whom have served their country and community in law enforcement or military capacities from WWII onward, have been laid to rest in this quiet corner of Lyon Township.
After it was abandoned for 20+ years, Phil Weitlauf spearheaded the efforts to repair and restore the area as a means of paying respect to canine veterans. The cemetery also features the Vietnam K9 Memorial Wall, a dedication to the 4000+ dogs who were left behind at the end of the Vietnam War.
The Memorial also has ties to two of Representative Slotkin’s recent proposals. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act was signed into law in 2021 and officially implemented in 2022.
The five-year pilot program provides grants to train and match service dogs with veterans. The passing of this legislation also allows veterans to have service dogs regardless of whether or not they have a mobility impairment.
Coming from a service family herself, Representative Slotkin has always been a proud supporter of the U.S. Armed Forces, and currently serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She also introduced the Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act, a nonpartisan bill which aims to expand health care and benefits for veterans affected by toxic exposure during their military tenure.
The legislation was passed in both the House and the Senate, and is expected to be signed into law later this year.