SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Nebraska (KTIV) – It’s been nearly eight years since South Sioux City native John Douangdara made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
On Aug. 6, 2011, the Warfare Specialist and Master at Arms Petty Officer 1st Class was killed along with his K-9 Bart, 33 other passengers, and five crew members of a military helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan.
Nicknamed “Jet Li”, Douangdara was a 2003 graduate of South Sioux City High School.
He had a passion for dogs and was a well known K-9 handler.
Nearly eight years since his death, he’s left a lasting impact on the community and the country he served.
In South Sioux City, the John Douangdara Memorial War Dog Park honors the memory of “Johnny” as his family lovingly calls him.
His family says it’s a place near and dear to their hearts.
“He is buried in Arlington so, we don’t have a piece of him here when he passed and now we do and we get to come out here and reflect and remember him as long as we want,” said Chan Follen, Douangdara’s sister.
The park is also a place where his family can go with their dog, who is named after the fallen hero: “Jet Li”.
Jet Li has a very special connection to Douangdara.
The dog was assigned to the Naval special operations warfare group and served with SEAL Team 6.
Some of the soldiers Douangdara served with handled Jet Li while he served our nation.
After serving, Jet Li went on to be a K9 with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, a group Douangdara often trained with.
Now, his family has a special piece of “Johnny” with them every day.
“It’s a reminder, an everyday reminder of, we have that void in our life where nothing will ever replace Johnny. There are little things, like Jet, that make it a little bit more bearable,” says Follen.
Follen says she wants people to always remember her brother.
“For him to sacrifice for a country that took in his parents and gave us the American Dream. I want everybody, you know, to reflect on how much we take for granted, our freedoms,” said Follen.
Now, this special park in the community Douangdara called home is a place everyone will remember him by.
“Just keep honoring him and keep remembering him because as long as we do that his name will live on forever,” said Follen.
Jet Li was placed with Douangdara’s older brother after the K-9 retired from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in 2017 with the help of Project K-9 Hero.
Jet Li was donated to the department after working as a US Navy Special Warfare K9 from 2007 to 2011.
He served during two deployments in Iraq during the war on terror.