Of Zonka, My Canine U.S. Marine--How can dog become a Sentinel
of Vigilance? Can dog's talk? Do their spirits
live forever? Can they fight off the Terrorism
of the world single handedly, or just warn their owners
of the danger lurking in the shadows? Zonka, a mix
of Siberian Husky and Malamute, serves a great Vigilance
Sunday--November 10, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 424
Zonka--The Husky of Vigilance--
Marine Corps Birthday
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, Nov. 10 --Twenty six years ago Zonka, the Husky Of Vigilance,
was born on this date, November 10--the Marine Corps Birthday. For
the following thirteen years, until his death in May, 1989, Zonka-the
Husky served as our family's Sentinel of Vigilance, guarding my wife and
children--and myself--from the Terrorists of Fear, Intimidation and
I always wanted a Husky.
As a child, my family raised Boxers. But I was a Jack London
fan. Buck, the alpha sled dog, was my canine hero. There was
something about the Husky, the closest domestic canine relative to the
wolf, that fascinated me. So for Christmas, in 1976, my wife led me
blindfolded into the garage of our Southern California home and presented
me with wild and furious malamute puppy. We waited until the
Super Bowl of that year to name him. After watching Larry Czonka
blast through the line, there was no doubt our tough little Husky pup was
going to carry Larry's name as a warning to all of his ability to protect
the quarterback--our family.
Zonka - ready for
Zonka was a man's dog. If that sounds
sexist, it isn't intended. I would wrestle with him. Zonka's teeth would gnash, and guttural growls as though he were about to
rip me to pieces rose menacingly from his throat. Strangers
were sure we were locked in a "battle of death." But it was all
play--two warriors fighting their mock battles, readying themselves for
the real test.
I traveled a lot in those days, all over
the world. I felt safe knowing Zonka was there to protect the
family--all 98 pounds of him. When he lowered his head and stuck out
his front two massive paws, and let that "growl of the wild" emit, any
would-be Terrorist packed up and ran the other way.
He was as gentle as lamb in wolf's clothing
with our children. One would never know he could rip and tear and
shred an enemy to pieces with his thick canine teeth, or that he would die
The wolf-nature is protection of the
family. Wolves are highly domesticated creatures.
The entire pack takes the role of mother and father of all pups, jealously
insuring their safety and security. Zonka adopted our family as any
Alpha Male would in a wolf pack.
To perpetuate his Vigilant genes, and to
bring him a friend, we acquired a beautiful Siberian Husky, Volka, to be
his mate. They bore a magnificent litter of seven, each with mutual
Genes of Vigilance, and we gave them to families who sought the same love
and protection we did from the pups.
Zonka, Volka with
our two daughters
When Zonka passed, it was sad day for us
all. I lost not only a great buddy, but a part of me.
But after September 11, 2001, when I survived the World Trade Center
attack and saw the Sentinels of Vigilance rising above Ground Zero, I knew
Zonka lived. He was our Marine of Vigilance, our symbol of ongoing
protection in a world cast dark by Terrorism's shadow.
That's why today is special to me in
two ways. My alma matter, the U.S. Marine Corps, is
celebrating its 227th Anniversary. I joined the Marine Corps
at the beckoning of a poster I saw on the campus of the University of
Oregon where I was a senior in psychology, only a few weeks from
graduation. The poster said: "We Make Men."
Despite my drive to get a college
degree, inside me was an equal thirst to test my manhood. I
wanted the tools of a warrior to go along with the tools of an intellect.
I wanted to test my "inner self" as much as my "outer self," for the
Marine Corps is all about self-discipline--the willingness to die for your
buddies, for the Corps, for your Flag, for your Country.
I wanted to be a wolf, I suppose, or
see if I could be.
So I left my dream of becoming a
college graduate and joined the Corps against the advice of all my
My three-year experience in the
Marines opened a door to understanding Terrorism that has enriched my
life. It also taught me how to understand and apply Vigilance with
equal, if not greater force.
In Vietnam, I came face-to-face with
the Beast of Terror numerous times. When the Beast raised his
ugly head and snarled, flashing his venomous teeth and claws, I was able
to stand tall and fight him despite his size and strength.
Later in life, the hand-to-hand
combat confidence I gained told me that I could overcome any Terror in my
life, for my will to survivor and keep fighting had been hardened and
honed by war. And my role as a U.S. Marine Combat
Correspondent furthered my belief in Vigilance over Terrorism.
Unlike other civilian reporters, my
first assignment was that of a Marine--to fight and kill. My second
was to write and report the war, and not its ugliness, but its heroism
embodied in the young men, young boys, who rose above their Fears,
Intimidations and Complacencies to fight the Beast of Terror.
I was a legend maker of sorts,
looking for the Goliaths in the Davids who fought and died daily around
me. And, I was challenged as a writer to describe in detail
the horrors I saw and turn them into acts of glory. I often
felt the conflict of poet versus warrior, the angst of wanting to shed
tears over the death of life while beating the drum over body count.
But the experience was part of
When I sat in the ashes of Nine
Eleven, pounding my laptop amidst the rubble, capturing in words what
others were scurrying about to capture with television and still cameras,
I was able to be both warrior and poet. I was able to capture and
freeze frame the birth of Sentinels of Vigilance, the souls of those who
died that day rising up over Ground Zero, and forming the Circle of
I was able to see the Shields of Vigilance,
the Swords of Vigilance, and to hear them shout: "Semper
Vigilantes...Semper Vigilantes"--Always Vigilant, Always Vigilant.
with polar bear
And later, when I found out the only dog to
die that day in the line of duty was Sirius, a Port Authority Police
Department bomb-sniffing dog, I saw the Sentinels of Vigilance had their
own Zonka with them, as I had had. Sirius became Zonka
to me. He sits with his red tongue lolling out, watching the
horizon, guarding it to protect the children, and their children's
children's children from harm. He's eternally Vigilant against
Terrorism of both the Emotional and Physical kind.
I salute Zonka this day. I
salute the Marine Corps.
I know that if and when we attack Iraq, the
Marines will be the first in and the last out. That's their
job. They are willing to die for Vigilance. They are
trained to not fear death, but to be honored by it.
I hope the least of them will be killed.
But if they are, they will rise to the ranks of Sentinels of Vigilance,
the first to warn of us of impending Terrorism, and the first to die so
that we might be ever Vigilant. And at their sides, will be Zonka
Days For Saddam Hussein
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