Navy SEAL dog handler John Douangdara was killed two years ago in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, along with his dog Bart. John was a Master at Arms Petty Officer 1st Class and a member of the Naval Special Warfare personnel, who support the SEALs.
On Memorial Day, a statue commissioned by his family will be unveiled in South Sioux City, where it will be placed in John Douangdara Memorial War Dog Park. The park is part of the Siouxland Freedom Park Project.
The statue was sculpted by renowned artist Susan Bahary and will be a half-size likeness of John and Bart. It was Susan who approached the family about doing a statue in his honor.
Since John was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the family wanted a place to go locally to remember their family hero. In an interview with ABC9 Eyewitness News, John’s sister, Chan Follen stated “We’re proud that he served his country so well. We’re proud that people can come here and learn what he did to sacrifice his life for his country.”
John was only 26 when he was killed on August 6, 2011 in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. The CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was aboard was shot down by the Taliban. His unit was part of Operation Enduring Freedom. John was one of 38 killed in the crash, 22 of whom were Navy SEALS.
Here are the awards he received while serving his country:
The Purple Heart, The Defense Meritorious Service Medal,
The Bronze Star with “V” Device
The Joint Service Commendation Medal with “V” Device
Army Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation (2)
Good Conduct Medal (2)
National defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal (3)
Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3)
Overseas Service Deployment Ribbon (3)
Rifle Marksmanship Medal and Pistol Marksmanship Medal
John was the son of Sengchanh and Phouthasith Douangdara, who fled Communist forces in their native Laos in 1979. He was the third of five children. His family described him as a computer geek. Although his older siblings offered to pay for college, John’s goal was to work on a nuclear submarine.
His love of dogs eventually turned him from his career goal and he became a Navy SEAL handler. Although he didn’t give out information to his family about his missions, they knew he was happy working with his dog Bart.
For those wishing to attend the ceremony, it will be held at 1 p.m. on May 27 at the John Douangdara Memorial Dog Park.