KATONAH, NY — June 22, 2019 — Westchester County Executive George Latimer unveiled the County War Dog Memorial during a free public program that honored our four legged heroes. The Friends of Lasdon Park & Arboretum raised more than $40,000 to create and erect a memorial statue dedicated to hero dogs in the military to compliment the Trail of Honor which is a tribute to all of our military veterans. The statue is a sculpture based on a World War II War Dog named “Chips,” who hailed from Pleasantville. The sculpture will pay tribute to the thousands of service dogs who have fought to protect our nation’s soldiers in violent war zones.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “There are thousands of service dogs who are trained to protect our military personnel while they are fighting to protect us. Many of these dogs continue to serve long after they’ve returned home, helping our disabled veterans. The statue of Chips is a small way that we all can pay tribute to our military dogs, and honor the bond that exists between our soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors, and their K-9 companions. It also honors our police and service dogs who protect lives every day.”
Westchester County Veterans Service Agency Director Ron Tocci said: “In Westchester County, we are proud of our military heroes– including these specially trained animals. Without them, many of our brothers and sisters in combat may not have returned home. That is why it is so important that we honor not just ‘Chips’ but all service dogs.”
New York State Senator Peter Harckham said: “It’s important to pay homage to the military working dogs who saved tens of thousands of lives in the line of duty. They are unsung heroes.”
Westchester County Legislator Kitley Covill said: “The memorial to Chips, a canine veteran, is a tribute to all of the service dogs who are so much a part of the defense of our country and our partners in conflicts. This work of art captures the grace, strength and tenacity of a canine who served our country well. It is wonderful to have such a beautiful bronze statue now as a part of the Veterans Memorial trail in the Lasdon County Park.”
Westchester County Parks Department Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia said: “Our parks system is home to some of the County’s most sacred memorials and we are honored to house and care for these important monuments. We look forward to hosting all of those who want to come honor service dogs and visit ‘Chips’ at Lasdon.”
Manager of Lasdon Park Ted Kozlowski said: “Lasdon Park is already proud to be home to the County’s Trail of Honor, and ‘Chips’ will now add to this pride as he stands guard over the memorial busts of our men and woman heroes. We encourage all to visit these revered testaments to those who have sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms we enjoy here at home.”
The money for the statue was raised by Friends of Lasdon Park & Arboretum while Pete & Christine Monteleone of A-Team Contracting donated labor and materials to install the statue.
Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix who trained for the United States Army, and is reputedly the most decorated war dog from World War II. Chips shipped out to the War Dog Training Center, Front Royal, Virginia, in 1942 for training as a sentry dog. He served with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. His handler was Pvt. John P. Rowell. Chips served as a sentry dog for the Roosevelt-Churchill conference in 1943. Later that year, during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners. The four crewmen were forced to leave the pillbox and surrendered to US troops. In the fight, he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take ten Italians prisoner. Chips was discharged in December 1945 and returned to Pleasantville.
Military service dogs are tasked with detecting bombs, drugs and weaponry, and bring life-saving capability to fight against terrorism.
The statue was created by artist Lena Toritch, MFA, a sculptor with Young Fine Art Studio, Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah whose stunning pieces have been placed throughout the Country for military and police personnel. Ms. Toritch was in attendance for the event.
Toritch said: “Military, Police and Service dogs have a special place in my heart. I am honored to be chosen to create the likeness Chips, who represents loyalty and bravery of our K9 heroes.”
This free event was open to the public and festivities included military displays, demonstrations from actual police dogs from the K-9 units of Westchester County and the NYS Police on how they work with their police dogs, an appearance from Nero, a German Shepard veteran from Iraq, and tours of the Trail of Honor.
About Westchester County
Westchester County, located in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley, covers 500 square miles and has a population of just under a million. Originally home to Native Americans, who were members of the Lenape tribe, it is today a rich mix of many cultures and landscapes. The County is a blend of bustling cities, quaint villages and picturesque towns as well as open spaces and a network of beautiful parks. Westchester is made up of 6 cities, 19 towns and 20 villages. Westchester County is known for top-notch public schools, and a high quality of life. The County is also an intellectual capital, boasting a highly educated workforce, competitive colleges and universities, Fortune 500 companies, world changing non-profits, and cutting-edge research centers. Westchester is led by County Executive George Latimer, who took office in January 2018 as the ninth County Executive. Using inclusion and openness as a foreground, Latimer is fighting to make Westchester a destination for all people to live, work and enjoy. Learn more about Westchester County by visiting www.westchestergov.com
# # #
SOURCE: Catherine Cioffi | Director of Communications | Westchester County Executive George Latimer