Houston’s Fallen Warriors
Memorial to Honor Bravery of Military Working Dogs and Service Dogs
by Mara Soloway
First published Dec. 2016 in Houston PetTalk Magazine
Cheryl Whitﬁeld has always had a strong sense of gratitude for military service members, instilled by her father who was in the Air Force in World War II. In recent years, she led the effort to create a memo-rial that makes sure fallen soldiers from Texas who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conﬂicts won’t be forgotten. Her inspiration for The Fallen Warriors Memorial at 14500 Cutten Road in Houston, which was built solely from donations, came to her in 2010 while she attended funeral services for fallen veterans at Houston National Cemetery as part of the National Memorial Ladies.
“The families of those killed in action all said the same thing: they don’t want their family member forgotten,” she said.
The Fallen Warriors Memorial was dedicated in October 2012. The names of 634 soldiers are engraved on four large granite walls in park space donated by the Cy Champ Public Utility District.
These days, Cheryl is working to honor others who bravely serve their country and their community. Two life-sized statues modeled after military working dog Eli and service dog Bretagne will be created by area sculptor Edd Hayes and placed just outside the gates of the Memorial in the grassy area.
“The families of those killed in action all said the same thing: they don’t want their family member forgotten. ...”
Bretagne was a member of Texas Task Force One and the Cy-Fair Search and Rescue team. The Golden Retriever was the last surviving 9/11 search dog. Due to her advanced age and failing health, her handler made the tough decision to have her euthanized. On June 26, 2016, members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department lined the path-way and saluted the brave dog as she walked into the veterinarian’s office.
Eli was detecting for IEDs with his handler, Lance Corporal Colton Rusk, who was 20 when he was killed by a sniper in Afghanistan in December 2010. The black Lab who saved so many lives in
his career is now living in Orange Grove, Texas with Rusk’s parents, Kathy and Darrell, who adopted him in February 2011. They had once met the dog when they visited their son before his deployment. Eli recognized the Rusks right away when they arrived at Lackland AFB in San Antonio to get him. “He knew he belonged to us,” Kathy said.
Now 9 years old, Eli is a comfort to the Rusks. When he ﬁrst came to their home, Eli went straight to Colton’s bed and laid on it. “He gave us a reason to keep going. Colton’s love is in this dog,” Kathy said.
The bronze statue of Bretagne will show her seated on rubble. Eli will be seated with his head look-ing towards the memorial. The statues will be on pedestals to deter climbers.
Completion of the statues is expected in 2017. Donations are being accepted. “Each statue will have bricks placed around it that people can purchase to be engraved with their pet’s name,” she said.
To make a donation, visit www.fallenwarriorstexas.org and click the Donate button, or send a contribution to Fallen Warriors Memorial, 13703 Vintage Centre Dr., Houston, TX 77069.