Sometimes we just need a little reminder to be thankful for our freedom. A story that pulls on the heartstrings. Maybe a perfectly timed photo or a memorial worth traveling to see. Whatever kind of reminder you need to remember the sacrifices made to keep our world safe, South Sioux City has it covered. Within the borders of South Sioux City and located six miles Siouxland Freedom Park Interpretive Center lies a dog park unlike any other.
A Place To Remember Our Heroes With Two Feet Or Four
South Sioux City has dedicated a five-acre dog park and erected a statue to honor South Sioux City native, Petty officer 1st Class John Douangdara. It also honors his dog, Bart. The dog park is a haven for dog lovers to spend some time bonding with man’s best friend. It’s also a symbol of the appreciation of Douangdara and Bart who tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan.
According to KETV 7, on August 6th 2011, Douangdara and 29 other American soldiers lost their lives when their CH-47 Chinook military helicopter was violently shot down in Wardak province. Douangdara was a Navy Special Warfare member who was partnered with Bart. The pair executed risky missions that saved countless lives. Sadly, Bart was also aboard the helicopter and lost his life in the crash.
Despite his young age, Douangdara had already served on five tours of duty overseas.
“I don’t think my brother would call himself a hero. He was doing his job, doing what he believed in. But in our hearts, he’ll always be our hero,” said Chan Follen.
In addition to their statue, Bart was also recognized by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association for his “dedication to mankind through unselfish and courageous service.”
Heroes Never Die
Douangdara and Bart may be gone from this earth, but their memory and the contributions they made to their community are forever memorialized. As Veteran’s Day and the anniversary of their death approach each year, visitors to the park are encouraged to leave a small token symbolizing the impact Douangdara and Bart had on their lives. A penny means someone visited the statue; a nickel means they went through basic training together; a dime means they served together in some capacity.
Though Bart and Douangdara have been gone for several years, their sacrifice continues to make an impact. It isn’t unusual to find the statue adorned with flowers, letters, or an American flag. Douangdara is buried in Arlington National Cemetery but his image and memory along with Bart’s live on, side-by-side forever in John Douangdara Memorial Dog Park. The pair that were inseparable in life are now inseparable in death.
Featured Photo: Facebook