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The Seeing Eye Inducted into Hall of Fame

James and Chelsea smile side-by-side while holding the small, clear award plaque. Both are dressed up, James in a suit and Chelsea in a black dress.

The National Service Animal Memorial (NSAM) was an idea sparked when renowned sculptor Susan Bahary worked abroad creating a variety of service animal statues, noticed how other countries paid tribute to all types of service animals and wanted to find a way to do the same in the United States.

Susan received her start in service animal sculpture work in 1994 when she created the United States’ first official war dog memorial, “Always Faithful,” at the Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery at the U.S. Naval Base on Guam. It was at the unveiling of that statue that Susan was forever changed. “The veterans of World War II came back, after 50 years, to Guam to commemorate these dogs at the cemetery. They came back to thank the dogs and remember them at the cemetery.” Susan recalls.

The impact of service animals is immeasurable, and witnessing those veterans' thankfulness firsthand made Susan want to create a memorial in our nation’s capital where people of all backgrounds could go to not only honor all service animals but also educate themselves and others about the significance of service animals and their handlers.

“People really respond well to animals in our country. Hopefully, with the National Service Animals Memorial, we can bring people together. This can be something that we can all agree upon regardless of our backgrounds. It can really bring out the best in all of all of us. It has so many ways in which we can honor, inspire, educate, and heal people,” explains Susan.

To spread the word about NSAM and honor those in the service animal community, the NSAM board decided to host the first-ever Purple Poppy Awards this September in California. In attendance was The Seeing Eye’s Chief Financial and Operating Officer, James Hands, along with The Seeing Eye’s Outreach Specialist, Chelsea White, and her German shepherd Seeing Eye® dog, Brooke. James accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of The Seeing Eye.

“We had decided that the first guide dog school in the United States and the oldest existing guide dog school in the world had to be included in the Hall of Fame. Since The Seeing Eye continues to have a great reputation, it was absolutely the right decision,” Susan says.

The National Service Animal Memorial is still on its journey to being constructed, but the project aims to be completed by 2028. To learn more about NSAM, visit https://nationalserviceanimalsmemorial.org/