The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Nominations, please, for War Dog(s) of the Year

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

This was another huge year for the War Dog community -- not only here in the United States, but worldwide. And for the first time, we at the Best Defense will be honoring one dog and one person who have made an exceptional difference in the war-dogs' lives he or she has touched in 2013. And because this world is so incredibly vast, encompassing many communities within, these nominations need not be limited to enlisted servicemen and women and dogs.

It certainly could be a deployed service dog (like Ruth, pictured here), but it could also be a therapy dog (combat or otherwise), or a retired service dog, or even a civilian canine making rounds in a veterans' hospital. As for the two-legged honoree, again, it could be a deployed handler, but he or she need only be an individual who as impacted the war-dog community for the better -- a handler, a therapy dog trainer, a veterinarian or medic, a generous individual whose simply given their time in support of our deployed MWDs and their handlers. All's to say, the scope here is very wide.

So, we're asking readers to send in their nominations. You can make a comment here on this post or send an email to: by Tuesday, Dec. 31. Tom has generously offered to present a signed copy of one of his books as a prize. I'll pitch in the doggles and super-sized doggie bone.

Above, MWD Ruth, with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group, takes a break from her obstacle course training at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on April 28.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Willis

The Best Defense

Why 'Once an Eagle' kind of stinks

By Col. Robert Killebrew, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense office of military-literary affairs

I'm probably the only Army officer I ever knew who wasn't particularly impressed with Once an Eagle, which I regard as an amusing but not profound military soap opera.

The reason soap operas are popular is because they are such stereotypes of personalities -- the deceitful husband, the stalwart wife -- and so is the book. In fact, people, and military careers, are far more complicated than a soap opera. I have known officers who were outwardly Courtney Massengales who evolved into terrific commanders, and Sam Damons who were deliberately lousy staff officers -- where most of us spent the majority of our lives -- because they, well, wanted to be Sam Damon.

C'mon -- where would you have put George Marshall, who had every outward characteristic of Massengale? I rather suspect that for his "Sam" model the author had Vinegar Joe Stilwell in mind. Everybody loves the picture of Stilwell as the tough-talking, campaign-hat-wearing simple soldier, but how did he really do at the senior levels?

If anything, I think the novel has had a negative effect on the Army, perpetuating among some senior officers that they should be just simple, hardworking country boys who don't understand all this staff stuff and who therefore overlook it (a few recent four-stars come to mind). I've nothing against a good read -- and the book was amusing -- but that it could be seriously discussed as a model for officership is a stretch.