As a Navy veteran, one thing my father wanted to do is to see his name in the register of Navy veterans in the US Navy Memorial in Washington DC. When the Wife and I finally took him there, I was surprised to see a bronze statue of an Asian American displayed prominently. The statue was of Lao American John Douangdara and Bart, a military dog. John Douangdara, from South Sioux City Nebraska, was a Navy dog handler who was killed in 2011 along with Bart when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan during a rescue mission.
Douangdara was the son of Laotian immigrants. He was an elite level dog handler and was assigned to support Seal Team Six. Before he died, he earned the Bronze Star with valor. His sister has written a moving tribute to him here. Douangdara was buried in Arlington National Cemetary.
The Bronze statue is called Service and Sacrifice and was created by Sculptor Susan Bahary. It was installed in 2021 as a permanent part of the US Navy Memorial and was commissioned by the US War Dogs Association. There is also a dog park dedicated and named in his honor in Douangdara’s hometown of South Sioux City which contains a smaller version of the statue.
John Douangdara’s bronze statue stands in contrast to the sentiments of an increasing number of Americans who feel that Asian Americans are not loyal to the US. While his service record is permanently enshrined, we looked at the Navy Log registry to find my father’s information but did not find his service record. Apparently the Memorial does not have a direct feed from military records and the information needs to be entered by Navy Veterans and their families. We are working on the process described here to make sure that like John Douangdara, my father’s service information will be recorded and made available to all.