Death 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 example.


Sunday--November 10
, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 424
Zonka--The Husky of Vigilance--
Celebrates Marine Corps Birthday

Cliff McKenzie
   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 Complacency.

Malumute pups

          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 battle

      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 trying.  
       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.

Zonka playfully 'growling'

        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 friends.
        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 destiny.
        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 Vigilance.
       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.

Playing 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 and Sirius.







Nov. 9--Seven Days For Saddam Hussein

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