Veteran of the Week: Wigginton served K-9 unit in Vietnam, Gulf wars
Published 3:35 pm Monday, October 19, 2015
By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist
Bill Wigginton of Calera is a historian of military working dogs not only from extensive study but from first-hand knowledge as a combat security police military dog handler (K-9) during the Vietnam War.
Wigginton retired from 20 years in the military, four years in the U.S. Air Force (1970-1974) and 16 years in the U.S. Navy (1979-1995) serving in both the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.
He retired as E-6 Electrician’s Mate, First Class Petty Officer.
Wigginton grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and raised German Shepherds.
He always loved dogs and wanted to work with them in the military. After boot camp, he volunteered to be a dog handler at Lachlan Air Force Base, home of the U.S. Air Force Dog School where he trained in December 1970.
He was sent to Vietnam with a sentry dog on a lease, and in Thailand with a patrol dog who worked on and off a lease.
“Our dogs could smell a marijuana seed in the middle of a football field,” said Wigginton. “There sense of smell is exceptional. They can detect a drop of O positive blood in an Olympic size pool. The dogs in Vietnam could detect explosives, find the wounded, detect trip wires, snipers, ambushes, and alert us of the enemy. When I was on patrol, I would work from sunrise to sunset with my dog to detect the enemy.”
Wigginton recently spoke at Claire Caldwell’s art class at Thompson Middle School about the history of war dogs and how Vietnam vets were unfairly treated at the end of the war.
The art students are creating welcome home paintings for the Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemorative Ride and Day of Thanks on Saturday, Nov. 7.
The art project is spearheaded by the Exchange Club of Shelby County, Marilyn Eddings, president.
Wigginton served on the board of directors for the National War Dog Memorial and Alabama War Dog Memorial located at the USS Alabama Battleship Park in Mobile of which he is co-founder. War dogs were brought home after all wars until Vietnam where 3500 dogs were killed including Wigginton’s two dogs.
“War dogs were not equipment to the men,” said Wigginton. “They did their duty, served their country, and deserve the same respect as servicemen and soldiers. Today they are no longer titled equipment and are brought home from war.”
For information on the 50th Vietnam Anniversary, contact Kenneth Paschal at 626-9458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.