The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, formally established by an Act of Congress June 3, 1916, celebrated its 98th anniversary with a ceremony May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum amphitheater.
While the Veterinary Corps was made official in 1916, the recognition of the need for veterinary expertise began in 1776 when Gen. George Washington of the Continental Army directed that a “regiment of horses with a farrier” be raised.
During the Civil War, the War Department provided each cavalry regiment with a veterinary surgeon in the rank of regimental sergeant major and pay of $75 a month.
During the Spanish American War, veterinarians were used to inspect meat, poultry and dairy products destined for frontier posts.
“We have 800 veterinarians, both on active duty and in the reserve,” said guest speaker Brig. Gen. John Poppe, chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and deputy chief of staff for support, U.S. Army Medical Command. “We have 80 warrant officers, more than 2,000 enlisted Soldiers working as veterinary food inspection specialists and animal care technicians and 900 civilians to bring our total strength to almost 4,000. They are doing great things and providing exceptional veterinary service across the planet each and every day.”
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Charles V. L. Elia, chief emeritus of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps from 1972 to 1976, also spoke at the ceremony about the early veterinary corps located in the old veterinary hospital on then-Fort Sam Houston.
At that time, it was made up of various contract veterinary surgeons, physicians and dentists who received $100 a month.
The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps now provides service to more than 400 installations around the world. Veterinary officers, reservists, enlisted and civilian personnel provide myriad functions, such as food safety and security, animal care, veterinary public health and research and development.
Sgt. Justin Garner, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston veterinary facility; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matthew Watterson, food protection officer at the 1st Medical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; and Maj. Justin Devanna, animal medicine program manager for Public Health Command Region South each received a commander’s coin from Poppe during the ceremony.
First Sgt. Tito Windham was also inducted in the Order of Military Medical Merit, awarded to those who have significantly impacted Army Medicine for at least 10 years.