Local Eagle Scout unveils statue of family dog that served during WWII

MARGATE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida Eagle Scout unveiled a different kind of soldier statue, one that pays tribute to two World War II heroes in his own family: his late grandfather and the family dog.

7News cameras captured the moment the statue of Rex, who served as a U.S. Army sentry dog during World War II, was shown off for the first time at Firefighters Park in Margate, Saturday.

The statue was the culmination of Vincenzo Ruffino’s Eagle project for Eagle Scout Troop 497 from Coral Springs. It drew a crowd and considerable praise.

“The Lord has brought me here, with all His power, His strength, His might and His willing for me to live and do this project,” said Ruffino as he spoke to attendees.

Margate Mayor Tommy Ruzzano said he remembers meeting Ruffino’s grandfather, Vito Speziale, in 2016.

“He was at the Veterans Day ceremony, and he was in a wheelchair, and he was waiting there to show me pictures of his dog Rex, that was enlisted in the military,” said Ruzzano.

Speziale was too young to enlist at the beginning of World War II, but he found another way to serve: by donating Rex to the Army. The family pet served two tours as a war sentry dog.

On Rex’s second tour, Speziale was old enough to join the Navy. The pair reunited after the conflict.

Ruffino says his grandfather inspired him to join the Scouts, and a tribute to his beloved dog seemed the perfect way to remember them both, especially as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of that war against fascism.

“Even though communication is my biggest factor in life, I tried to get this done as much as possible,” said Ruffino.

The end result is a gift to the community and a recognition that man’s best friend can be so much more.

“It’s bringing the whole community together — for the people, for the K-9s and for the residents. Couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Ruzzano.

Speziale passed away two years ago. His grandson hopes his project educates the public and brings awareness to Project Veteran Canine Recognition.

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